“Two things are irretrievable, time and first impressions”

By Donnavan Finlay, Co-Founder of Guyding Principals.

Over the past month I have been travelling all over our planet again for personal and business reasons. Although I hoped I would have some off time, it turned into endless meetings, networking events and dinner parties, one after the other. I ended up having the privilege to meet many great people from different countries and backgrounds. It all turned out great thinking back.

At the events I was meeting these new acquaintances, both personal and professional, I started to realize how some people’s body language changed the tone of the conversation and ultimately the outcome of the discussion. Taking note of how people were addressing one another and how they presented themselves through non-verbal communication, aka body language.

I noted how some people just got it all wronged watching in agony as they suffered through one conversation after the other and that is why I decided to touch on this subject again.

When we meet someone for the first time we pass judgment on that person in only a few of seconds. We would all like to think that we are not that superficial and do not judge a book by it’s cover, but we would just be lying to ourselves. Think of meeting two people. One person is well dressed and intently listening to what you have to say and engages as part of the conversation. The other person is untidy, looking around all the time and checking his phone every 30 seconds without it making a sound. This all while you are talking and trying to make your point. Which one of the two do you think you would like to keep the conversation ongoing? My guess would be the person that is intently listening and engaging in the conversation. Why would you want to spend time with a person who is obviously not listening and would rather like to be somewhere else?

This is why you need to practice good body language at all times. With time it will come more naturally and you will be able to carry across your points and visions for others to see without misunderstandings. Not just verbally, but non-verbally as well. Good body language can set you up for a successful evening, dating or professional. Poor body language will have the opposite effect.

This is the same for your professional and personal life. Every time you go out and would like to meet someone, you should focus on your body language. Giving a positive first impression will put in a good position to have a good night. On the other side, when you make a negative first impression, you have a tough disadvantage and will most likely end up creating a bad reputation for yourself.

At the end of the day, body language is a pivotal form of non-verbal communication.

Here are some tips to focus on and make that positive first impression.

  • Eye contact

When you are having a conversation with someone you should make and maintain good eye contact. No need to stare the person down, just keep eye contact to show that you are listening and interested. How would you feel if you are in a conversation with a person and they keep looking away at the TV in the corner of the room? You will feel that the person is not interested in what you have to say and you are wasting their time, right? This will end a first date early, guaranteed.

  • Posture

Keep yourself relaxed, whether you are sitting or standing. Keep your back straight but not too stiff. Relax your shoulders and hands. This will state that you are comfortable with your surroundings and help the other person feel relaxed as well. If you sit up too straight and fidget with your hands, it will let the other person feel that you would rather want to be somewhere else.

  • Lean in

When you are in a conversation with another person, you should lean in slightly towards that person. This will affirm that you are interested in what they have to say. When you do the opposite by leaning away it will tell the person that you are not interested in what they have to say, or make them think that they might smell funny.

  • Arms

Always try to avoid crossing you arms in any conversation. When you do, you are sending the message that you don’t like what is going on around you. It shows you are closed to the conversation and hostile to the environment. Practice on letting your arms hang by your side or bring your hands together on your lap. This sends the signal that you are open to the conversation. This goes for sitting and standing.

  • Affirming movements

Smiling and nodding your head shows that you are listening to the conversation and will show you have empathy with the person. When dealing with a difficult person this is an important attribute. People in general just want to be heard. When smiling and nodding, (and not interrupting) you will make them feel that you are listening to them and that you understand their plight.

  • The Handshake

This is a key non-verbal communication point. In some circles this can make or break your reputation and can even show disrespect to the other person. Make sure you have a firm grip, but not crush the other person’s hand. Combined with good eye contact, this will set a good tone for the meeting or conversation. A weak grip and avoiding eye contact will make you look weak and fragile. Not a good way to start a conversation. Especially a first date or job interview.

  • Slow down

Take a deep breath and relax. Slow down your talking and movements. This will show that you are confident and thoughtful. It will have a relaxing effect on you and the other people in the conversation.

Now you have some pointers on what you should work on to make that good first impression. Doing this will help you start a conversation on a positive note and people will listen to what you have to say. Important to remember is that this needs to be practiced in all areas of your life. Whether you meet new colleagues at work, networking events, new boss or just going on a first date. First impression is a lasting impression.

  • Not to do

Now for the NOT TO DO list. These are some notes I made while travelling and seeing people actually make these mistakes. I cringed at some of them and did not know how people can be so ignorant to their own behavior. Then I realized that it is something that needs to be practiced. It takes time. I had to learn like everyone else. This at the end of the day is why we started this venture of Guyding Principals.

  • Fake Smiling

People can pick this up very easily, so ne need to even bother. This will just annoy people and make them dislike you. Think of the times you have had to go to a store and was greeted by someone with that fake smile. You picked it up easily and so can other people. Avoid at all costs.

  • Checking the time

I have no real idea why someone would think this is okay. Checking your time while in a conversation tells the other person that you are not interested and already thinking of what you need to do later. You might be in a hurry but at least tell the person that you have limited time if you have to. Then when you tell the person that you have to go, it will not be so bad.

  • Tapping

Avoid tapping your fingers or feet. This tells the person that you are in a hurry to get this conversation done.

  • Interrupting people

When you are in a conversation, listen. Truly listen. Avoid thinking of your response and rather focus on what the person is saying. Do not interrupt this person. When they are done talking, then you can ask questions. This will tell the person that you were actually listening. They will respect that.

  • Avoid distractions.

Avoid looking at the TV when you are in a conversation. Keep eye contact and avoid looking around the room. I know a TV can be distracting, but you can always look up the football scores at a later time. If you do this on a first date you will show the other person that you are more interested in the sport scores and you will be going home alone. This goes for checking your phone all the time as well.

There you have it. Focus on the things I suggested and you will notice that you get a more positive responses from people. This is all from experience and I have had to work on them to improve my own body language, and I still do. Body language is controlled by our subconscious but that does not mean that we cannot work on it to improve it. Studies have shown that most communication is nonverbal. Up to 90%. The first impression will be a lasting one, so make sure it is a good one.

What have you noticed other people do that annoys you and tells you that they are not interested in what you have to say?



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