Dress nicely. Okay, you knew that.
To make a positive first impression, to be remembered in a positive light, what you say and how you say it are as important if not more important than how you look.
And fortunately, you may have had the benefit of a good teacher: your mother. Remember the manners she and your dad worked to instill in you? There was a reason for that. If mom and dad didn’t have the best manners to hand down to you, there are always etiquette specialists like Colleen Rickenbacher, author of Be On Your Best Business Behavior, Be on Your Best Cultural Behavior, The Big Book of People Skills Games, Be on Your Best Teenage Behavior, and is co-found of the Global Etiquette & Civility Academy.
“I always say your first impression always leaves your most lasting impression,” says Rickenbacher. “So whatever you do in those first couple seconds will stay with that person forever, and it’s always hard to come back and change that first impression.”
“Sir” and “Ma’am” are two words often under-utilized though seldom inappropriate in a business or social setting. Mono-syllables, really easy to say, and immediately give the impression that you are well-mannered. Whether you are the CEO, a middle-manager, or work in the mail room, they are good words to keep handy and use often.
“Always, when you come up to someone, always, have a smile on your face,” Rickenbacher says.
“Please,” “Thank you,” and “You’re welcome.” Basic manners. Should go without saying but people often go without saying them. Again, in almost every instance they are never inappropriate.
Any way that you can verbally convey a desire to help, to share information, to proactively assist someone – always appropriate and will seldom get you in trouble.
“Compliment them,” Rickenbacher teaches. “’You really impressed me with the (last thing you did)’. People love to hear those types of things and there is nothing more refreshing.”
Compliments. Very effective, but only when sincere. Otherwise you are engaging in an exercise sometimes called “brown nosing,” and that will never put you in good stead with whomever you are trying to impress.
In this day and age, first impressions are increasingly made online. Learn to write effectively and appropriately. Rants, coarse language, slang and bad grammar should be reserved only for intimate friends in certain circumstances. Use proper grammar and a good vocabulary. If you feel inadequate in either there are ample resources online. By all means, stop, take a breath, re-read, edit and consider the consequences before you hit “send”.
A highly powerful weapon in last impressions is the “thank you” note. President George H.W. Bush is legendary for his dedication to personalized, hand-written thank you notes.
“The best thing you can do is send someone a thank you note,” says Rickenbacher. “Just a nice thank you note, hand-written. People will treasure that. At the very least your gratitude can be emailed.”