Impact your impression


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Impact your impression

  1. 1. Impact Your Impression By Chelse Benham “Your manners are always under examination, and by committees little suspected, awarding or denying you very high prizes when you least expect it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson It’s a perennial favorite of business advice - how to create the best impression. What is really being evaluated is human interaction and the myriad of ways that people form opinions of others. It’s an evaluation of how opinion is influenced by what we say, how we act and how we look. “We offer a proper dining etiquette workshop and workplace professionalism workshop to students,” said Velinda Reyes, assistant director at The University of Texas-Pan American’s Career Placement Services Office. “These workshops give helpful tips to students to assist them as they start their first job. It helps them to brush up on how to conduct themselves and create the best impression.” Ann Demarais and Valerie White, psychologists and authors of “What You Don’t Know About How Others See You,” states in their book that impressions are all about connecting or bonding with people and putting them at ease. Mood is crucial. Be careful and be aware that the mood you are in may, ultimately send the wrong message. The first impression someone has about you leads to assumptions. In Readers Digest, March 2004, Demarais states, ”You may assume that someone who appears upbeat is also smart, likable and successful, even though you’ve never seen evidence of those qualities. You may also assume that someone who complains a lot is boring, unsociable and weak.” Demarais continues to point out that the first information you see or learn about someone is weighed more heavily than what you learn about them later. Both Demarais and White break down first impressions into several fundamental layers: • being able to radiate accessibility; seeming approachable; • showing a clear interest in others through body language; • sharing little information about yourself to form a personal bond; • knowing what topics to talk about during a first meeting; • feeling positive about yourself, your life and the world you live in; and • having that elusive sex appeal. In the Readers Digest article “Knock Their Socks Off” by Doug Colligan, Demarais offers tips to improve impressions one leaves with others, it’s reprinted here:
  2. 2. • Make eye contact at least half to two-thirds of the time (any more than this and you may come on too strong). Pay attention to our body language. Lean toward others when they speak. Nod every now and then. • Smile, even if you aren’t in the mood. “We actually encourage our clients to fake it,” Demarais said. “It’s a gift of social generosity, with a payback.” Just going through the motions of showing some teeth may make you – and others – feel better, says the research. • Be careful about “oversharing” i.e., disclosing too much personal information about yourself. Keep it light. Keep it positive. No on – repeat – no one will be interested in your gallbladder operation. • Try a little flattery. People warm to others who pay them compliments even if they know they’re false, studies show. “But it’s best when done sincerely,” Demarais stresses. • Got a prepared opening line as an ice breaker? Ditch it, or you risk coming across as shallow, aggressive and calculating. • Check your impulse to use the other person’s name repeatedly. Once or twice might work, but overplaying the name game can make you seem “salesy” and forced. • Think a neutral, inscrutable style makes you appear thoughtful, deep or cool? Forget it. Aloof behavior like kicking back at the table, crossing your arms or showing zero emotion makes you look bored or arrogant. Learning proper etiquette can also help ensure that you leave a positive impression. Sue Fox, author of “Etiquette for Dummies,” writes, “Etiquette is your key to surviving every human contact with your sense of humor and your self- esteem intact, and your reputation enhanced…In the world of etiquette, poise is the process of evaluating a situation (weighing it) and responding in a way that moves things toward the desired outcome. Another way to think about poise is to associate it with the word leadership. When you take the lead in putting people at ease and making every situation pleasant, you exhibit real poise…That’s what politeness is all about…taking the time to evaluate the needs and intentions of others, and behaving in a way that ensures a pleasant outcome.” Fox devotes chapter 26 to “Ten Common Etiquette Mistakes” and the chapter is outlined here: 1. Making introductions in the wrong order – Always introduce the lower- ranking person to the higher-ranking person, as in, “Mr. Jones, I would like to introduce Robin, my administrative assistant.” Introducing your boss to a junior colleague is a break of etiquette. 2. Showing up late for an important date – Be on time. Showing up late is disrespectful of other people’s time. 3. Resting elbows on the table – Never place your arms or elbows on the table while you eat. When in doubt about what to do with your hands place them in your lap.
  3. 3. 4. Waving the white flag: improper napkin use – As soon as you sit down to eat, place your napkin, folded in half, on your lap. If the event is very formal, wait for the host and guest of honor to place their napkins on their laps before doing so yourself. Don’t wave or shake your napkin like you’re hanging out laundry. Also, never use your napkin to wipe your face or your lipstick. Use it to blot. 5. Explaining too much when excusing yourself – If you need to excuse yourself, you don’t need to give a lengthy explanation about where you are going. Quietly say, ”Excuse me,” and don’t make a fuss – don’t announce a visit to the restroom or anything else. If an emergency comes up and you must leave for good before the meal is over, make a brief apology, indicate when you will next talk with important guests or clients, and leave with as little other interruption as possible. 6. Drinking to yourself – If someone makes a toast to you, never take a drink – not even a sip. If someone toasts you, simply acknowledge the toast by nodding and smiling. 7. Making remarks that embarrass or offend others – Avoid death, surgery and illness as topics of discussion. Other topics to avoid include religion, politics, salaries and office gossip. Instead, turn the conversation to current events in the world or in your industry, mutual friends, hobbies, sports or food. 8. Cutting in on conversations – If you feel the urge to cut in on someone else’s sentence with a fascinating tidbit of information that you think makes you look witty or erudite, sit back and wait a second. Don’t interrupt. 9. Speaking loudly – Speaking loudly in public, especially in restaurants, is common nowadays. It’s not the loudest person who impresses, it’s the person who has quiet confidence and good manners. 10. Flubbing a phone call – The impression you create on the telephone can be a lasting one, so make sure that your voice and manner show you in the most professional light. Callers base their opinions of you on what you say and how you say it. Answering the phone promptly is the first step. Treat every call that you receive as important. In business try to answer the phone before the second ring. Always begin the call by introducing yourself and identifying your company. When dealing with two calls at once, remember that the person you called always maintains priority. Finally, make sure to follow through on phone calls. If you promise information, try to call back promptly, or have someone else call back for you if you can’t do so yourself. Why leave the first impression to fate. Learn all that you can about how to present yourself. Go into every new meeting well prepared. Practice the art of introductions and social interactions. Increase your chance of success with everyone you meet then you’ll never have to play catch-up trying to undo the damage from the first impression.
  4. 4. “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.” - Emily Post