The phrase “A picture is worth one million words” is so overused that it seems it has lost its value and deep meaning. A picture is a composition of colors, shapes, dimensions, textures, and many other elements.
So now imagine what we communicate as tridimensional beings who interact with each other on a daily basis. As much as we try to stay away from “judging people for the way they look” or “having wrong impressions on people,” first impressions are a decisive moment in personal and professional relationships. After a first impression, it’s harder to reshape the perception that people have about you.
Political Fashion is all about using clothes as a communication tool to be your authentic self and open communication channels to enhance your personal and professional relationships. Today, we’ll talk about another element of non-verbal language that is a communication tool and that we use every single day: body language.
First of all, body language is every movement, gesture, posture, and signal that your body makes, sometimes in an unconscious way, but that communicates something to the people you are talking or relating to.
So let’s go over some of the key aspects of body language when meeting someone for the first time.
Be on time
We cannot talk about body language if we skip the part when you get into the place to greet the person you are meeting. Being on time is a sign of respect to one of the most precious and nonrenewable resources we have in life: our time.
Blaming on traffic is not going to make your first impression any less bad if you show up late. Make sure to arrive with enough time to take a quick look in the mirror and corroborate all your clothes, hair, makeup, are on point. This will also give you enough time to get familiar with the environment and feel more comfortable when you start speaking with the other person.
An authentic smile is one of the most important things to get a good first impression. Different studies show that smiles create a “mirror effect” on people. This means that if you smile, it is very likely that the person you are talking to will smile as well. This exchange of body communication is a great way to connect with the other person.
It will be interesting to see how the handshake will continue to evolve after the pandemic. Folks in different fields have substituted the handshake entirely with the elbow bump. Others prefer to put their hand on their chest, simulating a hug. Ultimately, the handshake is still a very common practice when knowing someone for the first time, so let’s talk about some general aspects to consider when handshaking.
One of the easiest ways to mess it up and create a bad first impression is by pressing too hard on the other person. This communicates a sense of supremacy, arrogance, or even aggression. It looks like an attempt to intimidate the person by showing your strength. This rule applies to folks of any gender greeting any gender. A very strong handshake is the practice of a bully. Don’t be a bully, don’t act like a bully!
On the contrary, try not to leave your hand falling as if you were about to faint. There needs to be a balance between solidness and steadiness that doesn’t become too hard.
A picture is worth a million words. A hand is worth at least a few thousand. Think of all the possible textures a hand could have: soft, rough, dry, wet, hot, cold, gritty, greasy, and the list goes on and on.
Make sure to wash your hands and dry them thoroughly before you get into the handshakes. If you were having a cold drink, make sure to wash your hands and dry them so that the other person doesn’t get a freezing handshake. If your hands tend to sweat a lot, make sure you dry them at least a few minutes before greeting. Remember, there’s only one chance to get a first impression, so every element of your body language counts!
The Eye Contact
Our eyes can communicate many emotions and feelings. During the face mask era, we became more observant of people smiling with the eyes when the mouth and nose are covered. A baby who cries makes an interesting expression where the eyes are curvy, and the sadness is easy to recognize. And with one of the strongest feelings we could have, which is love, our pupils are dilated when we see the person we like. (Health Line).
So our eyes are one of the most important elements of body language. Make sure you make eye contact when you greet the person you are meeting and shake hands. Avoid looking to the floor or to the place around you when you are speaking to this person because this can communicate a lack of interest, nervousness, or discomfort.
There’s a certain special connection you make with people when you look them in the eyes when you speak. It can be hard if you are scared of this person or you feel nervous in general, but it will definitely help you to connect on a deeper level with this person!
Nervousness is a very common enemy of first impressions. Nervousness can show as a sweaty forehead, a shaky leg, a restless look, or a constant look at your watch, your phone, the floor, or anything that is not the person in front of you.
Be mindful of how your body reacts with nervousness; when you identify what you tend to do when you are nervous, it is easier to spot it and stop doing it at the moment of knowing somebody.
A great way to show confidence is by initiating a smooth conversation that doesn’t seem improvised. If you really want to make a good first impression, you can start by asking the other person about their work, their hobbies, or something about themselves.
There will be topics that will be more appropriate for professional encounters. For instance, if you want to do business with a person from another company, you could start by asking them how long have they worked there or what do they enjoy the most about their work.
If the encounter is personal, a first date, for instance, a small complement with respect and moderation, could work to initiate a conversation. “That watch is lovely!” “I really like that coat. It looks very warm”.
A smell can make us remember memories from our lifetime; a smell can make us smile, feel intrigued, or feel disgusted. Smells are definitely part of a successful first impression.
There are people who love lotions and fragrances but use them in an excessive way that ends up making people feel headaches or want to walk away. If you like to use these products, make sure to do it moderately so that the smell is soft and pleasant.
On another note, still regarding smell, brush your teeth, don’t eat onion, garlic, or any heavily spiced food with an odor that can disturb your first impression with someone.
Is there someone you think of, and a particular smell (good or bad) comes to your mind? That’s because odors are particularly linked to emotional memories in our brain. (Very Well Mind).
A good or bad smell stays in someone’s memory for quite some time, so it’s important to take this task seriously in order to succeed with the encounter.
Consider every possible smell that comes from your body: a hair product, sweat, lotions, deodorants, bad breath, etc. Prevent and plan accordingly.
The Overall Presentation
You’ve probably seen a photo of a celebrity taken by a paparazzi where the celebrity is coming out of their residence or walking early in the morning to get a coffee. How can you tell that the photo was taken in the morning? How can you tell where this person is going? They probably have their hair in a messy bun; they are wearing sweat pants and little to no makeup. All of these elements are part of body language because they can create perceptions about who we are, how we feel, and where we are going.
Remember the devil is on the details; clean shoes, nicely well-pressed clothes, clean and presentable hair, clean hands, and nails all add up to a good first impression on the path to success!
The Previous Research
But how do we know how we should dress if we are meeting the person for the first time? How can we avoid being overdressed or underdressed and mess it all up?
This is when our research skills become handy because we’ll write down all the information that we have about our first meeting with this person in a professional or personal way.
Here are some first questions that you can ask yourself and write down to get the ideas going, but feel free to add some more that may be beneficial for you:
Who is the person that I am meeting with?
(Romantic date, business meeting, potential business partner, parents-in-law, potential client)
Why is this meeting so important for me?
(Do I like this person? Does this person have a lot of money to invest in my entrepreneurial project? Are the parents-in-law very influential in my partner’s decisions?)
What do I want this person to think of me?
This question could have multiple adjectives that will help you to decide better on your clothing selection; some adjectives could be: responsible, loyal, financially savvy, smart, educated, sexy, etc.
Where and when are we meeting?
The location, the time, the environment, and the weather altogether significantly influence the clothes we wear. Also, consider if you will be sitting or standing up most of the time. If you are sitting at a dinner table, your super elegant shoes might not be seen that much, so you will have to pay particular attention to the upper part of the body, the accessories, and the hair and makeup.
If you will be standing, then it may be uncomfortable to be walking around with a heavy, oversized clutch that you can’t hang on a coat rack. Think of the environment of the event/encounter/meeting, and plan accordingly.
There are hundreds if not thousands of different makeup options with colors, finishes, gradations, and textures. So when the time comes to decide what kind of makeup to go with, the answer is very simple: the one that feels the most comfortable and representative of you.
This is not the moment to try a Youtube tutorial by James Charles or Nikkie Tutorials, because if you try to do something over the top that you haven’t done before, your discomfort will immediately show. Be your authentic self and do what feels natural for you.
If you are one of those people with a lot of experience and skills in makeup, you can show that as long as it’s not too flamboyant for the occasion. A nice gradation of eyeshadow with neutral colors like browns, greys, or even soft pinks, is a safe choice. The details of these decisions will be highly influenced by the research you do.
It is totally acceptable to feel nervous. We are humans with fears. Fears of being rejected, fears of not connecting with people, fears of not being “sufficient” to get a certain job, or be a good partner, or be a business owner. This is why it is so important that we make time to work on our body language and our overall look. If you feel good on the “outside” with a stunning hairstyle, a well-fitted outfit, and a presence that is clean, sophisticated, and polished, it is very likely that some of these insecurities will go away, and you will feel good in the “inside” as well.