Everyone has experienced discomfort when meeting someone for the first time, at some point in life. It could be a job interview that you desperately want to ace, or meeting new acquaintances at a party (remember those pre-corona days?). While the odd awkward moment in such situations can be forgiven, there are a few mistakes that can truly sour the first impression you give. At the end of the day, when trying to make personal or professional connections, first impressions do count. Read on to discover the 7 behaviors, which according to experts, can ruin the first interaction in an instant.
You may think that offering a plethora of personal information about yourself is a good ice breaker, but etiquette and communication experts explain that the opposite is true. At the end of the day, the conversation is not only about introducing yourself, but also about getting to know the other person. You wouldn’t want them to leave the interaction feeling like it was a one-sided series of anecdotes about you, while they didn’t get the chance to speak.
Moreover, a social desirability bias may lead you to ascribe positive traits to people you don’t actually know well. That doesn’t mean they actually possess them and that they can be trusted. If you expose very personal details from the get-go, you risk coming off as gullible or immature.
2. Giving a weak handshake
We wouldn’t say you need to crush the other person’s hand with a forceful grip, but when meeting someone for the first time you want to make sure your handshake isn’t too weak either. “A weak or limp ‘dead fish’ grip makes you appear cold and disinterested, whereas a firm handshake conveys confidence,” explained Bonnie Tsai, founder of etiquette school Beyond Etiquette, in a statement to Best Life.
That being said, it is also advised to avoid clasping the other person’s hand with both of your hands, as that’s an action that expresses dominance. Of course, it’s best to keep these tips for the post-pandemic times when handshakes will be acceptable again.
3. Speaking badly of someone
Whether you’re at a job interview and are being asked about a previous employer, or just casually meeting someone with whom you have a mutual acquaintance, always avoid speaking badly about them! Badmouthing someone else when you don’t know your conversation partner will reflect badly on you. According to Tsai, badmouthing is guaranteed to backfire because it comes off as rude, and you can’t know if your conversation partner is personally connected to the people you’re talking about.
4. Name dropping
Having connections can definitely help you progress at times, but when meeting someone for the first time, avoid trying to ingratiate yourself by mentioning other people’s names too often. Doing so will undercut any confidence you are projecting and will give off the feeling that you need to depend on someone else to succeed.
5. Trying to be ‘memorable’
We all want to stand out, and sometimes when we talk to new people we want to leave them with a lasting impression of us. However, trying too hard to create a ‘memorable’ impression might hinder the relationship. Seeming too different from the average might turn off or confuse the person you are talking to. You might want to hold off a bit at first until you’re sure your audience is ready to handle the Real You.
6. Talking too much just to fill silent moments
This is something many people might do out of nervousness, after all, meeting someone new can be awkward. For some people, their instinct would be to fill every quiet moment with a personal anecdote or whatever else comes to mind. Be careful, as this can lead you to make the first mistake we mentioned on the list – oversharing and taking over the conversation. If you feel anxious about long silences, remember that they can be filled by asking the other side questions, too.
7. Assuming someone agrees with you
When it comes to political or otherwise sensitive topics, it’s best to tread carefully when meeting someone for the first time. It’s easy to slip into making invalid assumptions or imposing your own views without meaning to do so. Just because someone comes from a certain part of the country or has a certain profession doesn’t mean they necessarily fit into what you’d assume.