When you’re in business, everyone you meet matters. Sure, you want your clients to value you, your employees to trust you, and your accountant to tolerate you – but the opinion of everyone from the mailman to your regular barista counts too.
Gaining the respect of all the players in your life has an enormous impact. People work harder for you – even if you’re not their boss. Favors are loaned and repaid. Your reputation spreads in ways you could never predict or control. And the good will you encounter through your daily routine raises your standard of life, which raises morale, which raises productivity.
And it all begins with that first impression.
Also read: How to Assess Personality in an Interview
It takes a fraction of a second for someone to form an initial impression of you. Before that second has passed, they’ve also decided, subconsciously, how trustworthy you are. Thirty seconds later, they’ve made a full appraisal of how you look and how smart you are. Maybe they have terrible instincts – it doesn’t matter. Traces of that first impression will remain forever, whatever you do to amend them. But there are steps you can take to guide the people you meet towards the impression you want to leave.
The handshake is a classic one. Handshakes have been in the headlines lately, with the widely-mocked handshake wars of our international leaders. Probably Trump and Macron will never see eye to eye – and the respect they’ve secretly earned or alienated from each other can only be guessed at by the casual observer. A decent, strong, open handshake should last just three or four seconds, and be firm but not overbearing. That way, you express that you’re positive, outgoing, and warm.
And watch out for that personal space. Nobody who feels you’re immediately overstepping the mark is going to feel comfortable in your company. Right or wrong, they sense that you may be overbearing, over-familiar, or simply that you make them uncomfortable. Allow at least 45cm distance – roughly the length of your forearm and hand put together.
In fact, there’s a whole raft of details to which you should pay attention – and they’re broken down in this easy to study visual guide from OnStride. In all cases, stay alert to the body language you see in response and the cultural expectations of the place where you meet. It all comes down to the science of being human.