Situation 1: Have any upcoming presentation to senior management? All excited to get noticed at work by your seniors?

Situation 2: Attending an industry networking event? How do you network if you can’t get people to like you?

You might be super talented, uber cool, and even potentially valuable to other people. But why would they care if you don’t leave a good first impression with that person?We may be taught not to judge a book by its cover, but when we see a new face, our brains decide the person’s attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness, competence, and aggressiveness within a tenth of a second, according to the famous Princeton research.

So, whether in your career or social life, it’s important to know that you might not get a second chance to make a good first impression. The science of first impression has many leaders curious. In fact, even I started asking different questions, like:

  • Why would a person help another person?
  • How does one decide whether or not they should engage with someone?
  • What makes us reach out to someone we might have met only once before?
  • What do we look for in a person to feel inspired enough to work with them?

The answer to these questions are quite subjective, and would, of course, vary from individual to individual. But still, there is one common denominator that largely binds all these questions- Likeability.

Likeability is what we look for when deciding whether or not we should continue talking to a stranger. In fact, we feel more inclined to help someone who felt likeable when we met them the last time. Unlike trust which needs a lot of time to build; how does one appear likeable to someone in the first meeting itself? And to that I say, you absolutely can. I don’t mean that you can get someone to trust you with their lives after just an encounter but you do can make others like you instantly.

Be it networking or sales call that we’re talking about, first impression plays a major role, and it is a critical step in increasing your likeability quotient. With these three simple strategies, you can give people a reason to like you in just 5 minutes of meeting them:

1.Be Enthusiastic and Show it!

While we all know that when it comes to making a good first impression, our appearance, body language. eye contact, smile, and handshake matter. But what about your enthusiasm? You have just about 10 seconds to make a good first impression and it’s logical that you give this new encounter your best shot. Neither being too serious nor getting over-the-top with all the forced smiling, aim for the perfect balance. According to Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, “When I display enthusiasm, employees are more likely to listen to what I say and draw energy from mine.” Yes, be enthusiastic about meeting a new person – I mean, what reason do you have to be not happy? Just think of it as meeting a friend that you don’t meet too often. So, you’re happy seeing them, but not too much as you’re not really best friends yet. Be relaxed. Be curious. Be interested. And this is contagious. The other person will get that in the first impression. It will make it easy for them to like you, trust you to be a nice person. and make him eager to have better conversations and lasting connection with you. Easy, isn’t it?

2. Start with a Compliment

Compliments are always so endearing! Only condition though is, they should be true. Meeting someone for the first time, you might have heard something about them. If what you’ve heard is good, start your conversation by paying them a compliment. Or while talking, you may notice something great about them; so then go ahead and admire them for it. A good trick is to ask them a few questions and be a great listener. It could lead you to something about them that leaves you flattered. People love talking, but what they like more is having someone listen intently to them. Paying a compliment will, therefore, prove it to them that you weren’t just listening, but listening intently to know exactly where to applaud. An honest compliment not only makes the other person like you but goes a long way in making them believe that you could be trusted.

3. Memorize their Name

Do you know what is the sweetest and most important sound for any person in any language? Their own name! This one is old, but it’s still pure gold. You might not think much about your name. But have you realized how much power it holds over you? The power of using someone’s name when interacting with them makes the person feel special. When someone whom you just met shares his name with you, he in a way gives you permission to consider them as an individual and not some random stranger. So, memorize this new person’s name and drop it casually into the conversation at least 4- 5 times. “Ravi, what brought you to this conference? “You were saying you like Thai cuisine, Ravi. Have you tried this new Thai restaurant down the road?”, “It was great talking to you, Ravi.” After all, wouldn’t you find it easy to like a person if you see them providing you with their undivided attention? You can’t possibly expect to remember a new person’s name immediately but they expect you to remember their name! So, if you forget a person’s name, the best option is simply to apologize and ask again.

Summary: We have to realize that our brain is hardwired to judge. Leaving a great first impression is step one on the ladder to a successful professional bond or just any friendship. So next time you interact with a senior leader, on a sales call, or at a networking event remember to bring your best version to surface by displaying 3 critical keys of first impressions- enthusiasm, compliment, and using the person’s name. After all, a star leader realizes that credibility will bring people to you, but it is your likeability that will keep people with you!

Comments: What’s your opinion on first impression? How do you work on them? Do you mindfully increase your likeability quotient? I love learning from my readers. And please do share this science of first impression and executive presence.#BeTheStar