First impressions can be hard to shake whether they’re good or bad and people don’t often get a second chance to right a terrible first impression. Research shows that it only takes one second for someone to form an opinion of you at first glance. Daunting isn’t it? To make it worth their while by turning in a killer impression, we turned to an expert in making an impact no matter what the scenario: Michelle Martin, who helms The Curve every weekday from 4 to 8pm on MoneyFM 89.3 alongside Bernard Lim. Here, she shares her secrets on how to connect with anyone:
Unleash your captivating voice
Language is the doorway to connecting with others and making that great first impression. To make a great impression, you need to find your voice. People I’ve worked with are always surprised when they realise they can access a voice that carries their message best that may be very different from the voice they have gotten used to. That voice is as unique to you as your fingerprint. Communicating in person is very different from communicating on a page. No one teaches us how to verbally make a good impression, but I am here to tell you it starts with a voice that channels confidence and clarity.
Photo: Courtesy of Michelle Martin
Know that people are always moving in one of two directions - use that to your advantage
People always are either moving away from or towards something. If you want people to gravitate towards you at first sight, keep in mind that when you meet a stranger you can bring with you “doom and gloom clouds” or a “sun streaked sky”, with your attitude. What sort of “weather” are you channeling when you enter a room and with your conversation? Focus on bringing something to the conversation that is either uplifting/entertaining/inspiring.
Put your focus where your eyes are aimed
Over 18 years in radio broadcasting I have noticed the most charismatic people made me feel they were really, really, really “seeing” me. The way we all feel seen when the eyes of someone we love looks at us. Most of us make the mistake of putting the focus on ourselves when we are trying to make a good impression. Let go of all that pressure and really focus on someone else. What are they saying? What are they about? That is where you want to put your attention. And in doing so, not only will your responses be more authentic, you will lose some of that stiff “I’m trying to make a good impression” rigidness in your posture.
Do this one thing to channel positive body language
People can sense when you are tense just by looking at you. Tension in the jaw, repetitive movements, clenched fists, eyes that dart like goldfish in a bowl are among the signs. You want to channel ease when you are trying to make a good impression and that starts with your breath. Pay attention to your breath to help ease some of that jumpy, nervous, shallow breathing. Just focus on your breath, deep breath in, deep breath out (silently). It is the first step to presenting yourself with a sense of ease.
Ask yourself a key question “Am I enjoying myself?”
Emotions are contagious. At the end of the day if you want to make a good impression, you want to come across as accessible, at ease and authentic. You also want to communicate that you are generally having a good time viewing the world from within your own skin.
Wear block colours that set off your hair or skin
This is a neat trick I learnt from TV work. It is much simpler to look good using just one colour. So try wearing an outfit in one colour that you “know” works to set off our skin colour or hair. This sets the stage for you to make good visual impact.
Have something to say
The most fascinating people I have sat across have in one or two sentences helped me see something new about the world. We all have our area of expertise, but you need to learn to speak in “highlight reels”. After years of radio, I have trained people to think and speak in soundbites. This really helps when people are trying to make a good impression on stage but it also translates well off-stage. The trick is the pre-thinking you need to do to come up with your reel.
Connect on a deeper level with people with this one frame
Use stories about your life to connect with people in a transformative way. I use this when I am delivering a speech or presentation and I can instantly see when I am bringing the audience with me when I do this. We can all google a fact. But a good story about your life, is a crucible for meaning. We are all wired to lean in a little more when we think we are able to learn something genuine.
Relate by responding
If you want to make a real deep positive impression, you want to make sure you reflect that you are listening to another person. If you echo what they say, this transforms you from passive to active listener and makes you a lot more relatable.
Elevate impact with conviction
When you are speaking from the core of your conviction you come across as powerful and clear. The most mesmerising speakers I have learnt from demonstrate this unshakeable conviction in their communication. Practise accessing your conviction verbally. You may think you have strong passions, but you have to practise speaking in a way that allows you to show that passion.
Keep your inner judge quiet for a while
People need to trust you to think well of you. I was trained in anthropological thinking in university and I use it to this day in my interviews. In a nutshell, this means that when I am listening to someone, I listen first to understand their way of experiencing the world before I judge what I hear. This sets up a field of non-judgement. You are giving someone a unique gift to just be heard for a moment. Communicating non-judgement is one way to set the stage for defining your listeners experience of you positively.