3 Secrets to Making A Great First Impression

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” How quickly do people form an opinion of you? Seconds? Minutes?
Not to scare everyone, but Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov conducted experiments that showed first impressions occur in 1/10th of a second and aren’t greatly altered by longer exposure to the person.
It isn’t fair, but many judgments are made on faces alone. Studies show that naturally attractive people get better outcomes in all forms of life. But what can you do if you’re not suitable to appear on the cover of Vogue or GQ?


Here are a few quick tips to have some control over what people decide about you:

1. Make a Great Appearance
Be sure how you look and dress fits the occasion. If you’re going for an interview or business meeting, make sure you’re well groomed and dress conservatively.
What does that mean?
• You bathed and brushed your teeth. No one appreciates bad breath or seeing someone with spinach caught between their front teeth.
• If you’re a man, you’ve shaved and neatly trimmed any beard/ moustache. Also don’t forget to check for pesky nose and ear hair, and that goes for women as well.
• Your hair is combed and you’ve used a mirror to check the back so there’s not a flat spot or something out of place. You don’t want to just look good from the front.
• The outfit you choose to wear is appropriate for the occasion. Like Oscar Wilde said, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” Of course, this doesn’t mean you should wear a tuxedo, prom dress or evening gown to a job interview or business meeting, but you see the point. If you’re not sure what to wear, search online for photos showing photos appropriate for your category of destination.
• Think about the culture of where you’re going to be. Is it okay to have tattoos showing or face jewelry? If not, do the best you can to minimize them.
• Check yourself in a full length mirror. Is everything as it should be? Is your tie askew or your skirt hanging a little to one side? Are your shoes scuffed or there’s a snag in your hose? Make sure to do a full inspection before departing.


2. Have Super Power Body Language
How you carry yourself adds to your first impression. You want to look relaxed and confident, but how do you do that if you’re a little nervous?
• On the trip there, listen to some songs that make you feel positive and upbeat.
• Take some deep breaths before going into the building or room. This sends oxygen to your brain and relaxes you. Count 4 beats in and 4 out. Repeat several times until you feel calmer.
• Get in a Power Pose with hands on your hips like Superman and feel the confidence. Of course, do this where people don’t see you unless you want to be recruited for the Avengers.
• Stand up straight. Put your weight on the balls of your feet and keep them shoulder-length apart. Square your shoulders and tuck in your stomach. Keep your earlobes in line with your shoulders and don’t forget to breathe.
• Make eye contact. If you don’t look at the person you’re addressing, you will come across as insecure. You don’t have to hold continued eye contact, but it’s important to look directly at another when you first meet.
• Have a firm handshake, NOT one that could crush a can of tomatoes and NOT one that’s like shaking a wet rag. Practice with friends until you get it right.
• SMILE! You don’t want to look hesitant or nervous, so smile like you would when you meet someone you know well. If you’re not sure, practice in the mirror until it feels natural.


3. Be a Good Communicator
Interviews and first meetings can be stressful, but there are some things you can do that will help you make a better impression.
• Do voice warm-ups at home or on the way there. The easiest way is to hum in a hot shower so the steam relaxes your vocal chords. Start at medium range and then go as low and high as you can. Scrunch up your face like a prune and then relax it with your tongue hanging out like a hound dog. Say the words “Bay-Be-Buy-Bo- Boom” 5 times quickly to get your tongue working. If you do this, your voice won’t sound thing or crack when you first speak.
• Research the people and/or company culture of your destination. It helps to have some background before a meeting and adds to your ability to make small talk.
• Ask questions about the people you’re meeting. If you’re in a limiting situation like an interview, it can be as simple as how their day has been. If you have more time expanded your questions to learn about the other person’s life, like where they’re from, what they like about working somewhere etc. People like to talk about themselves, and it shows you’re interested in them, making you appear more confident than being solely self-focused.
• Listen. Sometimes when we’re nervous, we don’t listen well. Be sure and pay close attention to the question, and ask that it be repeated, if needed. Answer what you’ve been asked. If someone is telling you a story, don’t look around the room or at other people. They will appreciate you more for giving them your undivided attention.


If you practice these tips, you won’t care how long you have to connect, because you’ve mastered making a positive first impression.

12 Quick Tips to Help You Feel Confident

None of us go through life with our confidence meter stuck on 100% all of the time. Why do we feel confident? Why don’t we? Improving our confidence takes self-reflection and practice.

I recently conducted a  workshop on improving self-confidence at the University of San Diego’s Women’s Center. I had about an hour to condense a broad topic into a crash course. In addition to a quick look at psychological studies of confidence issues based on gender, and providing a detailed handout for self-reflection, here are a few ideas I taught to help give your confidence a boost:

  1.  Visualization

Visualization is not about seeing yourself trying to succeed at some point in the future. It’s about using your imagination to picture and experience the desired results like they’ve already been accomplished.

Before doing something that requires confidence, go to a quiet place where you can meditate. Imagine yourself doing the actions required and the feeling of success. Visualize everything that’s going to happen; what you’re wearing, how it feels and how everything works well. To engage in full visualization, also do affirmations and move your body. By engaging everything, you can experience the whole event before it happens and be a success when it actually does.

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  1. Rewire your Brain

When you feel nervous, your body floods with adrenaline, making you feel jittery. Instead of telling yourself you feel nervous, say “Yay! My superpower is here!” Adrenaline has helped people lift cars off people who are trapped, it’s like magic. Say “I’m SO EXCITED!!”  instead of “I’m nervous.” The more you focus on thinking of nervousness as a good thing, your brain will begin to associate it with positive, not negative, feelings.

  1. Put together a “Change My Attitude” playlist

Think about songs that make you feel happy or motivated, then put together a playlist on your favorite music device. Hearing these songs will help you feel empowered.  If you’re in a funk or need to change the way you feel, listen to songs that uplift you. An example is American Author’s “Best Day of My Life.”


  1. Stop Caring About Other People’s Opinions and Comparing Yourself to Others

          Have an honest conversation with yourself about what makes you care about other people’s opinions. When you were a baby, you were happy and free. Then people’s opinions began to intrude. Your parents & relatives, friends, teachers etc. put labels on what they thought you were and were not.

How much have you let what other people think of you define who you are? Take time to identify and root out old labels that don’t apply to you, or ones you still need to conquer.

Also, don’t compare your life to other people’s lives, bodies, houses, families etc. Most times, we don’t know the difficulties people are going through because they don’t reveal their problems. Not many people get on Facebook or Twitter and say “I gained 50 pounds!” or “I’m crushed by a mountain of debt!”

Be happy with who you are and don’t reach for an “ideal” based on images sold by the media or on social media.


  1. Stay Present

          Learn to let go of the past and don’t worry about the future. Stay present. By being present, we connect with others. When we’re not on our iPhones, rehashing our failures or obsessing about the future, staying present in the moment can help minimize our fears.

  1. Likeability/Listening

What makes a person likeable? They’re present, they connect and they listen. Everyone wants to be noticed.  Ask people you meet, from your barista to your family, “How’s your day?” Ask  follow-up questions if they give you a quick “Fine.” Engage and find out more. There are lots of things to learn from other people. If you listen without judgment, people will learn to like and trust you, adding to your confidence.

  1. Gratitude

Instead of focusing on your problems and what you don’t have, take time to reflect on what you do have. When you believe and embrace that anything is possible, you come into vibration with a positive energy that helps you achieve your goals. Take  stock of what you have, not what you don’t.

     8. Never Stop Learning

          To have more confidence, it helps to know what you’re doing, and that’s where learning comes in. Even when you think you know what you’re doing, there’s more to learn.  If you don’t know an answer, don’t guess. Say “I’m going to find out!”  In this information age, it’s easy.

Knowledge gives you power. Facts give you power. When you’re able to say “I know that because…” and can give a concrete example or reference, it lends you more credibility and helps you feel confident.

  1. Perspective

          We have all reached a certain point in life by going through problems. When you face a challenge, think about what you’ve navigated before, how you succeeded and where this problem falls compared to others you’ve lived through.


  1. Use Positive Self-Talk and Affirmations

Don’t let the traitor in your brain talk about failure. When you hear negative talk, visualize trapping the traitor in a closet, bound and gagged!   Watch what you think/say. Instead of “I’m trying to lose weight,” say “I’m losing weight.”

A common phrase people say to themselves is “I can’t”. When you say to yourself “I can’t,”  you are creating a barrier. This will prevent you from achieving a task you could otherwise succeed at.   If you would like to be successful, you need to start saying “I can” a lot more.  When you hear or say something negative, say “Delete, Delete, Delete. ”

  1. Confront Your Fears

Ask yourself what you are afraid of. Then ask, “What is the worst that can happen?” Go through each step of the process and see if you can change your attitude. By breaking things into small steps, they will seem much more manageable. Every journey begins with one step. Don’t let fear stop you from going on what could be a fantastic journey.

  1. Use Body Language and Presence Awareness to Project Confidence

            Before you go into a situation that requires you to feel confidence, do what Ted Talk presenter and Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy has suggested– strike a power pose: Put your hands on  your hips like Wonder Woman, above your head like you just won a race or other power positions that helps you feel more confident. Do some deep breathing to calm yourself and, if giving a talk, do some voice warm-ups so your voice doesn’t sound shallow or crack. Enter the room with good energy, project confidence and you will look like you’re ready to take on the world.

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        You can do it!  Take these tips, apply them and give your confidence a quick boost.