Whatever your country, industry, situation or language there is no doubt that first impressions count. People tend to remember their first experience of you, especially how you made them feel. It doesn’t matter whether you’re making friends, interviewing for a job or trying to impress someone you want to date, those key initial moments are likely to stay with them for a long time after you’ve left. When it comes to making a good first impression in English these are some of the essential things to remember.
- Be friendly and polite when you first meet them. Shaking hands is something that has become unusual thanks to COVID-19. However, when you meet someone for the first time you can bump elbows or hold out your hand and see if they are happy to make physical contact (depending on current guidance). A confident greeting can go a long way in this situation, whether you’re shaking hands or not. Something like “I’m pleased to meet you” is what you’ll most often hear.
- Master the art of small talk. Awkward silences are best avoided if you’re looking to make a positive first impression in English. One of the simplest ways to avoid this is to be ready with some questions and be prepared to make small talk. Asking questions about someone’s career or business always works in a professional context or you could ask about their day or journey to meet you. Whatever the question you opt for, make sure that you really listen to the response and are able to ask a follow up question if necessary.
- Compliments always make people feel good. The people you meet will usually remember how you made them feel as opposed to what you said - so, compliments can be really useful if you’re trying to make a good first impression in English. The best compliments relate to something you’ve heard about their work or what they do, perhaps a project they have been involved in or something they have achieved. You could also compliment food they’ve made or something they are wearing, such as a watch or earrings. Be sure to avoid focusing on anything too personal here - for example, it’s not invited or acceptable to make comments about someone’s body or attractiveness. Even if you’re being positive this can make people feel uncomfortable, observed and judged.
- Find a way to continue contact. If this is someone you want to see again then you can introduce an option for staying in contact before the conversation ends. That could be something as simple as saying “shall I give you my number?” or handing over a business card. If you have enjoyed meeting someone, be clear about it and make sure they know you’d like to do it again.
- Be friendly and open as you say goodbye. This is the last impression that you’ll be leaving someone with so it also needs to be positive and considered. Say something nice about the time you’ve spent with them, such as “it’s been really good to meet you” and then add in a reference to the future, such as “hopefully see you again soon.” Look them in the eye as you say it and offer a handshake if that’s appropriate.
It’s not that difficult to make a good first impression in English once you know how.