For some, meeting new people is a scary, intimidating necessity. For others, it’s an exciting and enlightening pastime. Either way, you’re going to meet new people in your life, and when you do, it’s in your best interest to make a great first impression.
Achieving that great first impression isn’t always easy, especially if you’re in a new location or if you aren’t sure what to say. However, there are a handful of body language hacks you can use to secure a better first impression, engage in better conversation, and eventually walk away with a warmer acquaintance.
Try some of these body language hacks the next time you attend a networking event (or before any opportunity to meet new people):
1. Assume a power pose before entering the room. This hack happens before you ever set foot in the building. Research shows that “power poses” can actually trick your brain into feeling more confident, resulting in easier conversation and a more poised demeanor. For example, you could stand up tall and raise your fists in the air, or take up space by putting your hands on your hips. Do so for just 30 seconds to a minute, and you’ll walk into the room feeling naturally more confident.
2. Maintain an “open” posture. The position of your body can tell other people a lot about what you’re thinking or feeling. If your body posture is “closed,” such as if your arms are folded or if your head is down, people will think you’re not interested in conversation. If your posture is “open,” with your shoulders back and your head up, you’ll be seen as more welcoming and friendly.
3. Touch (when appropriate). Touching someone gives them an instant connection to you — that’s why handshaking leaves a lasting impression when first meeting someone. Give handshakes, and when appropriate, venture into other forms of physical contact, such as patting on the shoulder. Just be sure to keep things appropriate — an unwelcome touch has more negative power than a welcome touch has positive power.
4. Stand up straight. There are a few reasons standing up straight can help you when meeting new people; first, you’ll feel and appear more confident, giving you an edge in an entry conversation. Second, you’ll naturally have a more “open” and welcoming posture. Finally, it allows you to breathe in a fuller, healthier way, giving more power to your words and more oxygen to your lungs throughout the conversation.
5. Make eye contact. This isn’t just an old wives’ tale or an obsolete tradition. There are many psychological factors at play that make eye contact between two people powerful. The eyes communicate many nonverbal cues — some of which you probably aren’t even aware of. This is part of the reason making eye contact with someone instantly makes you trust them — even if only slightly more. It also shows you’re paying attention, and that you’re invested in the conversation. Make eye contact early, and maintain it whenever appropriate.
6. Gesticulate. Occasionally gesturing with your arms and hands can make your words more compelling to other people. If you want to emphasize a certain point, punching the air can hammer it home. If you want to ask someone else’s opinion, an upward-turned hand can make the request more inviting. The only danger here isn’t the type of gestures you can make, but the frequency of gestures you use — too much gesturing will make you seem a little off your rocker. Keep your gestures reserved.
7. Remain Still. There’s no need to remain perfectly still during the encounter — doing so can make you seem robotic. But you’ll want to avoid needless fidgeting or motion that interferes with the conversation. For example, pacing around, tapping your foot, or wringing your hands can make you seem nervous and unconfident. Instead, try to keep yourself (and your appendages) as in control and in check as possible. Doing so will make you seem more confident.
These body language hacks can’t make up for a dull conversation or a rude demeanor, but they can start you off on the right foot with just about anyone. If you feel uncomfortable with these hacks, practice them with friends or family members, or even in front of the mirror until you get the hang of them.
It may feel forced at first, but with more practice, eventually it will feel natural to you. At that point, you can meet anyone, anywhere, and your body language will respond on autopilot.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!