How to Make a Good First Impression (With Examples)

Do you worry about how you come across to new people? Perhaps you feel anxious when you have to introduce yourself or find it hard to put your best foot forward when you’re on a date.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to make a great first impression when meeting someone new.

Sections

  1. How to make a good first impression
  2. What is a first impression?
  3. Why are first impressions important?
  4. Common questions

How to make a good first impression

People are quick to form impressions of each other. Research shows that within seconds of seeing a person for the first time, we start to make judgments about their likability, attractiveness, competence, trustworthiness, and aggression.[1]

Fortunately, you have some control over how other people see you. Here are some ways to create a positive and lasting first impression.

1. Make the other person feel good

If you can make the other person feel happy, uplifted, or positive about themselves, you will probably leave a great first impression.

It can also help to remember that many people feel nervous when meeting someone new, and around 50% of the population describe themselves as shy.[2] Even if the other person seems confident, they might be worried that you won’t like them. If you are friendly and put the other person at ease, you are likely to make a positive first impression.

For example:

  • Greet the other person warmly using an enthusiastic tone of voice and smile at them. For example, you could say, “It’s good to meet you!” or “Hi, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you!” Show that you are happy to be spending time with them.
  • Show an interest in them by asking questions. For example, if someone tells you they recently adopted a dog from a shelter, you could ask, “What breed is your dog?” Let yourself be curious about the other person; this will usually make it easier to come up with things to say.
  • Thank them for their time or help (for example, if they have made time to interview you for a job).
  • Use humor to make them laugh and show that you are friendly.
  • When you say goodbye, tell them it’s been a pleasure to meet them.
  • Remember their name. If you aren’t good at remembering names, try to create a mental association between their name and someone or something else. For example, if the other person’s name is Rachel and you have a cousin with the same name, try picturing the two of them standing together.
  • If someone new joins the conversation, be warm and welcoming. For example, if you are hanging out with new friends in a group and someone new comes along, greet them, introduce yourself, and tell them what the group is talking about so that it’s easier for the new person to join in.

2. Be an engaged listener

If someone doesn’t think you care about what they are saying, you won’t make a good initial impression.

To be a better listener:

  • When someone is talking to you, pay attention and process what they are saying rather than wait for your turn to talk or rehearsing your response in your head.
  • Lean forward slightly, make eye contact, and nod to signal that you are interested in what they are saying.
  • Summarize their main points in your own words. For example, if someone tells you that they are thinking about moving from the countryside to the city, but they can’t quite make up their mind, you could say, “So you’re saying that it’s hard to decide between staying where you are and moving to the city?”
  • Do not interrupt.
  • Try to reframe a boring conversation as a chance to learn something new.

Both men and women like people who are good listeners. When you’re on a date and want to make a positive impression on a girl or guy, try to focus on getting to know them rather than talking about yourself.

3. Take care of your appearance

If your first meeting with someone is face-to-face, your appearance is usually the first piece of information they learn about you. This also applies to online dating profiles where your photo appears before your bio.

Although we might like to think otherwise, research shows that we often judge each other on the basis of physical appearance.[3] Making the most of your looks can help you leave a good first impression.

  • Stay on top of your personal grooming. Get regular haircuts, wear clean clothes, replace your shoes when they wear out and keep your facial hair neat if you have a beard or mustache.
  • Choose clothes that fit you well. Research shows that men in tailored suits are assumed to be more successful, flexible, and confident than men dressed in off-the-peg suits.[4] These findings don’t necessarily mean everyone must have a tailored wardrobe, but finding clothes that fit properly is worth the effort.
  • Make sure your outfit is right for the occasion. For example, stick to the dress code at work.
  • Get enough sleep. Research shows that sleep deprivation makes you appear less attractive and less healthy.[5]

4. Be on time

Late people come across as inconsiderate, which does not leave a good first impression. If you keep someone waiting, the other person may interpret it as a sign that you do not value their time. Let the other person know as soon as possible if you are going to be late, and apologize when you arrive. Give a brief explanation for why you are late but don’t ramble. For example, “I am very sorry I’m late, I was held up in traffic” is fine.

5. Be yourself

If someone thinks you are putting on an act, they may hesitate to trust you. Authenticity is an attractive trait, and appearing “real” creates a good impression.

To appear genuine:

  • Let your emotions show. For example, allow yourself to laugh when someone says something funny. You don’t have to play it cool to create a good impression. Use gestures and facial expressions to show how you feel. Be careful not to overdo it, or you may come off as insincere.
  • Do not lie or exaggerate. Be honest about yourself, including both your strengths and limitations.
  • Let yourself speak freely during conversations. You don’t want to cause offense, but it’s usually OK to say what’s on your mind or give your opinion, especially if someone asks for your input.
  • Make your own decisions and state your preferences. For example, if you are at a job interview and the hiring manager asks whether you’d like to meet the people who would be your coworkers before or after your interview, it would probably be better to pick an option instead of saying, “Oh, I don’t mind.”

For more tips on how to get the balance right, check out our guide on how to be yourself.

Be ready to adapt to different situations

Being able to adapt your behavior to suit different situations, whether formal or informal, is a social skill. Following social rules doesn’t mean you are fake or inauthentic; it means you are socially competent.

It’s normal to behave differently depending on who you are with. For example, you probably avoid joking around in a business meeting because it would make you look unprofessional, but humor may make you more attractive when you’re on a date.[6] Try to see a social situation as an opportunity to showcase different sides of your personality.

6. Smile

Happy faces are perceived as trustworthy,[7] so smiling could help you make a good first impression. A quick trick to smile naturally and genuinely is to think of something that makes you happy. If you are very nervous, it can help to take a few deep breaths and try to relax the muscles in your jaw and face.

7. Be positive

You will usually make a better first impression and make people feel comfortable if you appear to be a positive person who knows how to enjoy yourself. You don’t need to act happy all the time, but try to resist complaining, venting, or moaning.

When you introduce yourself, add a positive comment or question after saying your name. For example, if you are meeting someone for the first time at a wedding, you could say, “Hey, I’m Alex. It’s lovely to meet you. The cake looks beautiful, doesn’t it?”

If this sounds difficult, it may help to work on becoming a more positive person in general. For more tips, see our article on how to be more positive.

8. Be courteous to everyone

Polite, well-mannered people tend to make more positive impressions than those who act rude. Remember basic etiquette. For example, always say “please” and “thank you,” avoid interrupting other people when they are speaking, and do not use vulgar language that could make others uncomfortable.

If you are going to a formal event and you aren’t sure which social rules you need to follow, check out an online etiquette guide.

9. Find common ground

People tend to like and befriend people who they believe are similar to themselves.[8] If you can make someone feel as though you have things in common, you will probably make a powerful first impression and build rapport.

When you meet someone new, look for similarities. If you work or study in the same place, you already have something important in common. For example, at school, you are studying the same subject as your classmates. This gives you lots of things to talk about, including your professors, upcoming exams, or experiments you are conducting in class.

Alternatively, you could try making small talk about several topics until you find something that interests the other person. When you find a topic that interests you both, the conversation will probably be more engaging for both of you.

Our guide on how to find things in common with someone contains strategies you can use to have deeper conversations and discover commonalities.

10. Prepare some talking points

If you know in advance that you’re going to meet someone new and you want to make a good impression, think of a few topics you could bring up. Having talking points ready to go can help you feel less nervous, which may help you come across as a confident person.

For example, if you want to make a good impression on your partner’s relatives, you could prepare a few questions on where their family comes from, what their relatives do for a living, and what your partner was like as a child.

11. Use confident body language

Most of us notice other peoples’ body language and use it to make judgments about them. For example, someone with a hunched-over posture usually comes across as introverted or submissive.[9] When you use confident body language, other people are likely to form a positive impression of you.

Try to:

  • Sit or stand upright (but not rigid) instead of slouching
  • Keep your head level or tilted slightly upward[10]
  • Use a firm handshake
  • Avoid fidgeting
  • Avoid wringing your hands or interlacing your fingers[10]
  • Avoid touching your neck when speaking[10]
  • Let your arms hang loose and allow them to move as you walk[10]

To appear more likable, try to keep your body language consistent with your verbal language.[11] For example, if you are telling a light-hearted story or joke, try to use a relaxed posture and avoid signs of nerves, such as tapping your fingers against your leg.

Make confident eye contact

A lack of eye contact isn’t a reliable sign that someone is lying, but most people interpret it as a sign of deception. They are more likely to believe what you are saying if you look them in the eye.[12]

However, be careful not to stare because constant eye contact can make you appear aggressive. Try to break eye contact every 4-5 seconds with a quick glance to the side.[13]

If you find eye contact challenging, check out our guide to confident eye contact.

12. Vary your pitch and tone of voice

The way you speak influences how other people see you.[14] For example, speaking in a monotone voice can make you come across as bored or apathetic, and talking loudly can make you come across as rude. Your voice is particularly important if you’re meeting over the phone because your facial expressions and body language aren’t giving the other person any clues about you.

To create a positive impression:

  • Speak clearly; this may mean deliberately speaking more slowly than usual if you tend to speak fast.
  • Try not to raise your pitch and tone at the end of a sentence unless you are asking a question, as this can make you sound unsure of yourself.
  • To come across as trustworthy and competent, speak at a low rather than high pitch. [15]

We have a guide on how to stop mumbling and start speaking more clearly that may help.

What is a first impression?

When two people meet for the first time, they quickly make judgments about one another.[16] These judgments can be explicit (conscious) or implicit (unconscious). Together, they make up an initial perception of another person. In psychology, this perception is called a “first impression.”[17]

Why are first impressions important?

First impressions can have significant consequences.[18] For example, if someone has the impression that you aren’t trustworthy, they may be reluctant to open up to you, hire you for a job, or see you as a potential friend. You don’t need to make a perfect first impression, but behaving and dressing appropriately can make you more successful in both your personal and professional life.

Common questions

Do first impressions last?

First impressions matter because they are powerful and can be hard to change,[17] but they are not always permanent. When we interact with other people, we update our impressions and judgments as we learn more about them.[19]

What color makes the best first impression?

There is no consensus on what color makes the best impression. Some studies have found that lighter, rather than darker, colors can leave a more positive impression in specific contexts (for example, for police in uniform), but these findings don’t necessarily apply to the general population.[20] [21]

What are some examples of bad first impressions?

Turning up late, failing to maintain eye contact, talking only about yourself, forgetting the other person’s name, and mumbling are a few examples of behaviors that will leave a bad first impression.

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Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages Socialpro’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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