Whether we’re networking for a new job, joining a new group, or meeting our new neighbours we all want to make a great first impression. But often we can be our own worst enemy and sabotage first impressions but talking too much or too little about ourselves.
I have developed a simple-but-effective strategy to ensure we make positive first impressions with those with meet.
The next time you introduce yourself (or get introduced) to someone new, remember four words:
After the initial handshake and name exchange, get the other person talking about themselves (YOU…YOU) by asking questions, showing interest, and following up with more questions to learn more about their background and interests. Then find an opportunity to share something about yourself (…ME) and then try to end the conversation with a renewed focus on them (…YOU).
In other words, the best strategy for making a great first impression is NOT by trying to impress other people with your own qualities and success, but by ensuring they walk away from the conversation 1) feeling heard, valued and energized by you and 2) learning something positive and memorable about you.
Talking Too Much
In my years of coaching, I have found that some people tend to talk too much about themselves. Some do it out of nervousness or fearing an awkward pause in the conversation (and what that implies). For others it’s simply because they gain energy by talking and can’t help themselves. For a few it’s an unhealthy ego and a belief they are one of the most interesting people in the world.
Either way, instead of YOU…YOU…ME…YOU the conversation ends up either:
ME…ME…ME…ME (and not only do you look self-absorbed but also bore the person to death)
YOU…ME…ME…ME (and it becomes obvious that you’re not that interested in them)
ME…ME…ME…YOU (and the token display of interest at the end comes off as patronizing)
Talking Too Little
On the flip side, some people tend to talk too little about themselves. For some it’s nervousness or uncertainty around what to say about themselves. For others it’s the difficulty of getting “air time” among highly talkative people. Either way, instead of YOU…YOU…ME…YOU the conversation ends up mostly YOU…YOU…YOU…YOU. While others may walk away from the conversation feeling energized, they remember nothing about you or why a continued relationship might be beneficial (other than that you’re a good listener).
Avoiding Conversational Ping Pong
If you’re lucky and you’re interacting with someone who also understands this strategy, you’ll likely have a more balanced, give-and-take conversation that energizes and satisfies both of you. But don’t assume that all conversations should be either ME…YOU…ME…YOU or YOU…ME…YOU…ME. Conversations rarely flow in such a rigid back-and-forth way, and if you’re waiting for the other person to reciprocate with a question every time you ask one, you’ll likely set yourself up for frustration.
All it Takes is Practice
Of course, YOU…YOU…ME…YOU isn’t a strict formula. But reminding yourself about it just before you meet someone new can help you avoid the traps of talking too much or too little, and ensure the other person walks away with not only a good first impression but a willingness to interact with you down the road. And it all starts with showing interest in others. As Dale Carnegie once said “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you!”
Join Jayne and the Career Engage Team at our Seminar on May 17th. Learn how to improve your networking skills and Build Relationships For Career Success.