Learning how to introduce yourself might seem silly or uncomfortable because it can feel extremely awkward. We’ve all felt that discomfort at walking into a room full of new people for the first time, or having to make small talk in a meeting with people you’ve just met.
A first impression, however, can be vital to what comes next. First impressions usually happen very, very quickly, and they can help establish rapport (which makes the rest of the time spent together more comfortable) as well as help give you the benefit of the doubt.
If people make a positive first impression, they’ll be more likely to overlook a mistake down the road. Alternately, if they make a negative first impression, they’re probably more likely to judge a mistake more harshly.
It’s common to be nervous, anxious, or worried (or all of the above!) when meeting somebody new, whether it’s a job interview or meeting your girlfriend’s parents. It’s equally common for negative thoughts to run through your head before the big event.
Some of us are battered by memories of past meetings gone wrong, negative things people have said about us (the human brain has an uncanny ability to forget the good and focus on the bad), or a running ticker tape of negative self-talk (“I’m such a loser,” for example).
These thoughts do no good and instead, help to seal our doom. To counter them, try replacing each negative thought or image with a positive thought. Mantras are a great way to do this, and here are a few you can try:
- I am happy to be here
- I have a lot to offer
- I have a great smile
- I am calm and confident
You can also try focusing on positive comments or compliments people have made about you in the past.
The best people at “off the cuff” are often the people that have practiced the most. It sounds counter-intuitive, but you can, in fact, prepare for a great first meeting! Think of a few things you can say to connect with the other person and don’t be afraid to do your research.
You don’t want to give the impression that you’re stalking somebody, but if the information is readily available on somebody’s social media accounts, it’s ok to reference it. Mentioning a shared loved for a favorite sports team, for example, or a mutual alma mater can help you establish rapport.
In a more formal setting, such as a meeting or a job interview, it’s a good idea to prepare talking points. These are important points that you want to make sure are covered, showing your grasp of the situation and the fact that you took the meeting seriously.
Don’t be afraid to wrap up the meeting by indicating that you still have a few points you want to make sure are covered.
Those first seconds of introductions feel boring and repetitive, but they are also extremely valuable as they give you the opportunity to learn–and remember–somebody’s name.
Remember how you feel when somebody remembers your name? It leaves a great impression on your mind, and you help leave a great impression on other people by doing the same.
- Repeat the other person’s name. For example, instead of just saying “nice to meet you,” when somebody tells you her name, say, “nice to meet you, Sharon.”
- Picture the name. If you’re a visual person, try picturing the named spelled out.
- Use association. Maybe you have a good friend named Charlie, for example.
It’s natural, when we’re nervous, to talk a lot or to become really, really quiet because we can’t think of what to say about ourselves, but getting the other person to talk is a great trick that makes learning how to introduce yourself much easier.
Instead of blurting out a random fact about yourself, try asking the other person questions about herself and then make sure to listen carefully to the response. If you’re focusing on learning about the other person, you’ll be more likely to forget your awkwardness plus you’ll be more likely to make a strong first impression.
People like to talk about themselves, and in this busy age, when somebody is genuinely interested in what makes us tick, we remember that person. Plus, when the other person is sharing about themselves, you’ll be more likely to find things in common; the connection is an important part of a vital first impression!
A limp handshake is absolutely the worst when you’re meeting somebody new, but so is a hand-crushing handshake. Too much strength and you’ll come across as domineering, unpleasant, and arrogant, and too little strength and you’ll look weak and indecisive.
A good handshake is firm and doesn’t linger; make sure you look the other person in the eye while you’re shaking their hand. You should allow your elbow to bend naturally during the shake.
Two quick shakes are all it takes; then let go. If you’re prone to sweaty hands, wipe them first or leave them in your pocket with a handkerchief.
It’s natural for your talk to speed up if you’re nervous or feel like the other person isn’t listening or doesn’t care (a natural fear when you’re meeting somebody for the first time), but don’t let your words run away with you!
Fast talking, however, will make you seem nervous or, worse, like you have something to hide. Focus on talking slowly and clearly and enunciating your words carefully.
If you’re serious about learning how to introduce yourself to make a great first impression, it might be especially useful to get feedback from people you trust. How did they feel when they met you? What was their first impression of you? What could you have done differently?
Don’t internalize negative feedback, but do use it to help you make constructive changes where appropriate.
Even better, get feedback from people you trust on some of your best traits, so you know what to focus on. We have a bad habit of not paying attention to the compliments people share with us, but those are, in fact, the very traits we should let surface when we’re meeting new people.
It’s easy to feel that putting your best foot forward and learning how to introduce yourself means rattling off a resume list of why you’re awesome. In fact, making a good first impression is about making the other person feel good.
If you can make a person feel free to be herself and confident that when she talks she’ll be heard, you’re bound to make a positive first impression. The trick is to stop focusing on your own discomfort or uncertainty and to focus on the person you’re meeting.
Ironically, realizing that it’s not about you is a huge component to make a good first impression!
You might not want to write a handwritten thank you note or send a gift after your first meeting (though those things can certainly be great!), but following up after the meeting can be a powerful way to reinforce a positive first impression or recover a poor first impression.
The trick is to keep it simple. A quick text message or social media message that says, “great to meet you!” is all that it takes, but if you can remind the person of the personal connection you made together, even better.
You don’t want to look like the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland, but a quick smile or warm grin can make a huge difference. Just like a yawn is contagious, a positive attitude is contagious, and the more positive the encounter, the more likely the other person is to remember you positively.
Now that you’ve got our ten best tips for learning how to introduce yourself, all that’s left is for you to start practicing! Much of the advice we’ve given today boils down to two points: 1) prepare and 2) make it about the other person, not yourself.
Do those two things, and you’ll be on your way to charming people and winning new friends wherever you go!