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The modern globalized world requires conversation. Often that conversation happens in English. People often say, “You only get one chance to make a good impression.” When English is your second language, how do you make a good impression? There are a lot of factors to take into consideration, like culture, so keep in mind this is from an American perspective and this list might change greatly if you were meeting someone from somewhere else.
People say you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, and that might be true. However, I find it is much better advice to dress for the job you want, not the job you have, and dressing well for a first meeting is the most important thing you can do. First impressions, even superficial, visual ones count. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.
#2 Genuine Smile
It is so nice to meet someone who is smiling than someone who is not. Smiles are contagious, so often starting with a smile you will find the other person smiling back at you. This is a good time to mention that eye contact is good as well as a firm, but not overly strong handshake.
#3 Remember Names
The most beautiful sound in any language to any person is the sound of their own name. I don’t believe anyone is bad at remembering names, I believe people are bad at caring about remembering names. It’s easy to say, “I cannot remember names,” than the hard truth, “I didn’t remember your name because I didn’t care enough.”
Please take note that a name is like a new word, and it just takes repetition to memorize a new name. Dale Carnegie had a great technique he used to remember names, called a name association. You simply come up with a small phrase, rhyme, or associate their name with someone else you know to help remind you of their name in your head during the conversation.
#4 Small Talk
One of the biggest requests I get from students is to work on small talk. This comes easier to some cultures and some people than others. I will write a whole post on this topic in the future. My advice is to have some ice breakers prepared. These can be jokes, questions, anecdotes, or related to the reason for the introduction.
#5 Ask Questions
If you are good at speaking English or if you are not, it is important to ask questions. This shows that you are interested in the other person, and are actively listening to the things that they are saying. If you are not confident in English, I always recommend this because it takes the focus off of you, and allows you to listen to the other person. I advise using open questions that start with: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How..? Closed questions that result in yes or no should be followed with an open question. If your conversation partner isn’t talkative, you could get trapped with a long list of yes and no responses without getting the conversation started.
Everyone has something they like to talk to about. I will lastly remind you that most people’s favorite topic of conversation is usually themselves.
#6 Contact Information
If it is appropriate and you don’t already have the person’s contact information, be sure to ask politely for their contact information. A simple, “May I get your contact information?” will do. Thank them for their time, let them know it was nice to meet them, and if applicable, that you look forward to seeing or speaking to them again in the future. This goes for emails too! English speakers just love thanking each other, showing gratitude, and well wishing until next time.
Do you have any tips for introductions? Funny stories from a bad introduction? A good cultural exchange the first time you met someone? Share them in the comments!