Did you ever hear people say “First impressions are made to last?” Well, they are very right to say so. Quite often, I see very intelligent professionals do not get the time and respect they deserve from others, simply because of the initial impression they made. I remember one time I was at a business dinner with my boss – the General Manager of the company and a group of engineers from our prospect client organization. We were discussing how we could potentially cooperate to produce innovative products & services. During this discussion, we emphasize how important it would be to have respectful, honest and cultural-sensitive communication between both sides – when one of their engineers burped gas right into the face of our General Manager! The worst thing is – the engineer didn’t even think it was bad etiquette!
Etiquette can be a thorough and cultural conversation, yet it would emphasize on first impressions. In the business world, when we make a strong initial impression; we are trying to prepare for an upcoming business relationship based on synergy. We all know that making a good impression is important – because when we go for a job interview, an important business meeting or even to an important business social function, we put on our best clothes to make a good impression! So where do people get impressions of us from? A few areas, I’d like to share with you:
- Appearance – Yes, believe it! Before you even say anything, people will get an impression of the kind of person you are based on your clothing style, colours and fashion sense. If you’re still wearing that suit from the 1980s, it’s time to put it away until the next 80’s generation Retro Party! But it’s not just the clothes; our body language also affects our appearance.
- Body Language – How do your facial expressions appear? We know this is important because we put on that big smile on our faces when we meet an important person and want to make a good impression. Facial expressions include our eye contact, our smile, the nodding of our head is important is come cultures. Some cultures respectfully bow as a way of using body language to show respect. Look in the mirror to see how your body language is speaking to others upon first impression.
- Verbal language – Of course! What we say to others and how we say it will form an impression. Ever rehearse in your head what are the first things you would say to an important person when meeting them? How about the kind of things you can talk about to build rapport? Plan on the questions you could ask to get a conversation moving along? Most importantly, how do you plan to say those things? Our voice, tone and pace of speaking will give people an impression of who we are. For example, how would you use your voice to show that you re-enthusiastic and energetic? How would you use your voice if you want to show that you are calm and rational-minded?
As for that engineer who relieved his gas right in my General Manager’s face – I hope he will eat less gassy foods and have more opportunities to relate to different cultures. Making good impressions are important, and following cultural standards to show respect also forms strong impressions. We live in a world where doing international business is becoming easier through technology, and our world is more connected. Let’s connect as humans by making strong impressions.