Five emotionally intelligent tactics to make a good first impression

Love to make a brilliant first impression every time you meet someone? Here are five ways you can use emotional intelligence to ensure you come across well. 

We all want to make a good first impression. Whether it’s at a job interview, making new friends, meeting your new partner’s parents, or your first day in a new job. However, we only have a tiny window to do so – according to statistics it takes someone as little as seven seconds to form a first impression of you.

So, with that in mind, what can you do to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward when it really counts? The secret, according to psychology and leadership coaches, is using your emotional intelligence.

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Emotional intelligence relates to a number of different things, but essentially it’s your own self-awareness around how you feel, how you act and how you’re behaving in any given situation. It also means being aware of other people’s emotions and how that impacts their behaviour.

Five emotionally intelligent tactics to make a good first impression

Emotional intelligence is a skill that can be developed, but it does take time and a lot of commitment. Here are five emotionally intelligent tactics that you can’t start working on today that will help you when trying to make a good first impression.

1) Start with self-reflection

Before entering a room or meeting new people, take some time to reflect on how you’re currently feeling. How does meeting new people make you feel? Are you stressed and worried, or confident and eager? And how is that going to impact how you behave?

Taking a few minutes to reflect like this gives you the opportunity to ground your emotions and nip any bad behaviors in the bud before you act on them.

2) Take three deep breaths

You’ve probably heard many mindfulness advocates telling you that three deep breaths can make a big difference – and they’re right!

If you’re feeling nervous or you know the situation is going to cause you unease, taking three deep breaths can be all you need to make sure you stay calm and collected. It’s so effective because deep breathing increases oxygen to your brain, which in turn helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system – creating a state of calmness.

Doing this helps you to feel re-connected with your body and physical presence rather than lost in emotions of anxiety. Breath in deeply through your nose and out slowly through your mouth and see how much calmer you feel. (You can read more advice on how to use breathing to combat anxiety here.)

3) Focus on the energy of the room – and who you’re talking to

Strong emotional intelligence allows you to adapt to any situation as they arise. This doesn’t mean changing who you are, but instead redirecting your energy to suit where you are and who you’re with.

If you walk into the interview room and everyone is demonstrating perfect posture, strong handshakes and there is little chit-chat going on, make sure you match this. Walking in with a big grin, messy handshake and too much enthusiasm could mean you miss the mark on your first impression.

4) Engage in active listening

We don’t listen to understand, we listen to respond is a popular saying, and it’s something that’s very true of people with low emotional intelligence.

When engaging in a conversation with someone make sure you engage in what is referred to as ‘active listening’. This means paying attention to what they’re saying, making eye contact, demonstrating non-verbal nods (smiling, nodding etc) and asking follow up or clarifying questions about what they have told you.

You’ll notice a marked difference in how people respond to you when you engage in active listening, and you’ll make a much more positive first impression.

5) Make a connection instead of a conversation

In networking scenarios or when we generally meet new people, we go for the default question “What do you do?.” It’s a question that often finds us pigeon-holing ourselves and the other person, and doesn’t allow much room to generate a connection.

Instead, try asking different questions, such as “What are your passions?”, “what do you spend most of your time doing?” or “What’s your story?” At an interview, try asking the interviewer “How did your career journey lead you to the business?”

All of these are not only interesting, but the person you’re talking to us unlikely to have been asked them before. So who do you think they’re more likely to remember? The person who opened a conversation by asking what they do, or the person who asked them their passions and genuinely made a connection with them?

Start building your emotional intelligence – and make great first impressions

This list is not exhaustive, and you might be reading through thinking not all of them are suitable for you. That’s okay! They are ideas to help you on your way to building your emotional intelligence and creating great first impressions, every time.

If you’re looking for more advice on how to build your emotional intelligence, you’ll find these articles helpful too:

Elaine Mead is a passionate education and careers consultant, and is particularly interested in empowering young women to be their professional best. You can follow her on Twitter and read more of her articles on medium.

Photo by Aki Tolentino