Our first meeting with a person may not have much meaning at all. If it’s likely we won’t see the person again or if the meeting is fleeting, we usually are not concerned about first impressions. However, if we are meeting a potential business partner, investor, possible romantic partner, friend or relative, we are likely to meet this person again and again. Involvement that carries on into the future is often set in motion by the first impression we give. Since we do not always know what the future holds, it is good advice to treat each meeting as though it could have an impact on our future.
Within the first 30 seconds of meeting a person, we already have an inner reaction to that person.
I watched a truly gifted salesman friend of mine, Grover, in action once. He “bumped into” a young man coming out of a restaurant (while I was gladly paying the bill) and complimented him and talked to him for a bit; and before I knew it, he had sold the young man some Slick 50 (oil additive for engines).
This salesman was gifted, and one of his most important talents was his ability to leave a positive first impression with people. I asked him about his approach, and his comment was that everyone he spoke with was a potential customer—either then and there or in the future, so he treated each one as though he or she was a customer.
First impressions really counted, and Grover was an expert at meeting people. He always left a very good impression of himself. We could all take lessons from him. Grover has since died, but the impression he left on me is indelible. We should treat everyone as a potential and future son or daughter of God.
Please understand that trying to make a good impression is not the same as “putting on a good front” in a hypocritical way. Our goal should be to be truly good people and then not make mistakes to make people think otherwise.
Here are some tips from Grover.
Make consistent eye contact without staring. There is something about a person whose eyes shift a lot that makes us feel they do not really care about us or that they are somehow nervous. Eyes have a lot to do with communication and can convey unspoken messages. Obviously, we need to be careful about what we interpret “eye-talk” to be saying, but there is no denying that we gain something through the eyes.
Be careful both about ignoring your ringing phone and about constantly interrupting a conversation to answer phone calls. I feel uncomfortable when someone looks at the exposed caller ID as his or her phone rings—and then decides not to answer it. I can’t help but wonder whether I would get the same treatment if I should call. There may be very good reasons a person would not pick up the phone; but since I do not know that, I am left with the impression that this person lacks deep concern and sense of value towards others. There are some unwanted calls we get (such as from telemarketers) that we are justified in not answering. It would be wise to mention that to a first-time guest.
Since people can also feel like they’re being ignored if you continually answer calls, the best solution may be to set your answering machine to answer after fewer rings when you have guests.
When you are eating a meal, chew with your mouth closed. If you are not sharing a meal, do not be chewing things. When I see a person who is continuously chewing gum or chewing food with his mouth open or closed—I notice it. It seems especially unladylike for women to be chewing something in an ongoing and conspicuous manner. Men can come across as crude and unsophisticated when they wolf down food or are constantly working their jaws.
There is something about a person whose eyes shift a lot that makes us feel they do not really care about us.
Baseball seems to be one sport that presents a fascinating need for a player or coach to be chewing something—something big. In the “old days” it was chewing tobacco, and that resulted in huge streams of spittle being directed with more or with less accuracy at something. Chewing tobacco seems to have been banned, but it has been replaced with a huge wad of something. I cannot imagine it being gum, but then I cannot imagine anyone chewing huge wads of stuff for two hours straight. In order to talk, they need to deposit the object in one cheek—and that leaves a whole different impression.
Be on time for appointments. We all understand delays and circumstances that interfere with us being on time. When the reason is clear, nobody really minds. But when you are trying to make a good impression, the need to be punctual is more important. There are many situations in Scripture that demand an eye towards punctuality. People feel that you respect them when you are on time.
Do not be checking your watch unless you really do have another appointment.
Do not be checking your watch unless you really do have another appointment; and if you do have one, make it clear to the person with whom you are talking. I visit a lot of people, and I often have another appointment that follows. I need to know the time, but I am careful about when I glance at my watch. It helps to make it clear that you do have a schedule to keep, but checking your watch regularly leaves the impression that you are more interested in going than you are in completing the conversation. When I check my watch in the sight of the person I am speaking with, the conversation pretty well ends.
Complaints about government, the price of gas or anything or anybody else do not belong in first impressions. Nobody likes a grouch, complainer or whiner. Jude 16 explains that grumblers and complainers walk in their own lusts. They point fingers at others, but usually they have major needs themselves that should be addressed.
Clothing is important—be presentable and neat. Appearance does leave an impression of the inner person. True, appearances can be deceiving. And there may be times you may not be able to help your appearance. But generally speaking, when we go out in public, we should reflect self-respect, as well as respect for others, by paying attention to our dress. Of course, hair, shoes and all other parts of our appearance are included. See 1 Timothy 2:9-10 1 Timothy 2:9-10  In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with modesty and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
 But (which becomes women professing godliness) with good works.
American King James Version×. Although this scripture is addressed to women, the general idea applies to all of us.
Nobody likes a grouch, complainer or whiner.
Avoid speaking too much about yourself, your example or the bigger fish you caught. I agree, it is very difficult for a fisherman not to relate the story of his “bigger” fish (and, oh, how they can grow!). We have our own examples of almost anything and everything that we like to relate. Often we tell the tale because we think we are leaving a better impression. The truth is that sometimes we turn people off when our story outshines theirs. Listening can speak louder than words.
Refrain from inviting a new contact into a cluttered and untidy workspace. Some believe a cluttered office reveals a cluttered mind.
All of these are nonverbal communication points that shout a loud message about who and what you are as a person. We joke a little when we say, “It is better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” But Proverbs 17:28 Proverbs 17:28Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
American King James Version×agrees: “Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace.”
First impressions are usually formed quickly. Within the first 30 seconds of meeting a person, we already have an inner reaction to that person. That is why a smiling face, steady eyes, warm handshake and all of these nonverbal points are so important.
Once an impression is formed, it is hard to dislodge. We would not want to dislodge a good impression, but a bad one sticks like glue. There is a huge advantage when we give a good impression of ourselves to others. But it is a big mistake if we carelessly give a poor one. If a good impression is the one you want to leave, make sure it is good—it does count.
Jesus advised us not to judge by appearances (John 7:24 John 7:24Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
American King James Version×). And we should do our best to follow His instruction, since we do not know someone else’s heart. Understanding the impact of first impressions can start things on a positive note. Be aware of these points, so you can avoid making a bad impression.