Putting your best foot forward

Meeting new people is always stressful. Every new person that we encounter comes with possibilities and uncertainties.

Maybe the two of you will hit it off, or maybe this person will suck you into a vortex of never-ending small talk or hostility. But while it’s impossible to control how the other person behaves or how they perceive you, there are a few ways to make sure you make the best first impression possible, depending on the situation.


Potential employers

A job interview might be one of the most nerve-wracking first encounters that you’ll ever have. The pressure of competing for a job, the stone-faced interviewers, and the generally formal tone are enough to make anyone sweat. So much depends on what the individual employer is looking for, but politeness, enthusiasm, and confidence are three personality traits that suit almost any hiring situation.

Looking the interviewer in the eye goes a long way in showing confidence, as does speaking clearly and not fidgeting. And when employers ask about your qualifications, highlight the skills that you would bring to the job. It may seem like bragging, but employers want someone who can present themselves confidently.

As well, it’s important to gauge the interviewer’s disposition. Some are strictly interested in business, but other interviewers are fine with slightly more casual conversation or joking. Especially if the job involves working with the public, it can be beneficial to show your potential as a friendly yet professional employee.


Friend of a friend

Sometimes your friends choose weird people to be friends with. So when someone you know invites you to meet their new friend or boyfriend/girlfriend, most people are understandably apprehensive. Just because your mutual friend has some quality that you both like doesn’t mean that you’re going to get along with this new person. And then there’s the awkward fact that you’ll probably see this person again in the future. And obviously your friend likes them, so you can’t say anything bad about them… and, well, you get the picture. It can be tricky.

When in doubt, keep in mind that you do automatically have something in common with a friend of a friend. You can always ask them how they met your mutual friend. There is usually some kind of vaguely interesting story behind how friends meet that you can go along with. This person may not become your new best friend (or maybe they will—there’s always that possibility), but the two of you will probably work out some kind of necessary and unspoken truce to be cordial if you’re going to be seeing a lot of each other.


Someone you like

It obviously depends on the situation, but my best advice when it comes to catching someone’s attention is just to keep it simple. Playing hard-to-get or being aggressive works for some people, and if you’ve had success with your own strategy, that’s great. But in a lot of cases, just being friendly and showing interest gets the message across.

That said, being overly forward might be unwelcome, and sometimes inappropriate, depending on the environment. So start slow. Small talk may seem boring, and shouldn’t become your permanent method of communication, but it’s a good way to break the ice. Rather than jumping into your life story or getting too personal too quickly, it gets the two of you talking without scaring the other person away.

From there, you can ask the person some basic questions about themselves. It shouldn’t turn into an interrogation, but many people enjoy talking about their own life. So get them talking about their job or their friends. That way, you’re showing interest, and letting the person feel like the two of you have connected.

All you can do is be approachable. And even though you still might not land the job, get on the good side of your friend’s roommate, or get that date, there are always other opportunities. It’s up to the other person to decide what they think of you, and there are ultimately a lot of factors that you can’t control when making a first impression. Maybe the person had a bad day, or has preconceived notions about what they think of you. Or maybe they’ll turn out differently than you expected and you’ll be the one trying to get some distance. But if you ignore the hypotheticals and focus on what you do have power over, at least you’re giving yourself the best shot possible.

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