4 science-backed ways to make a good first impression

Mimi Launder
Friday 07 July 2017 11:45
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Picture:(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

You know that one colleague who inexplicitly seems to hate you, and always has since day one in the office... Ever pondered on why that might be?

Take a break from bewilderment to consider these science-backed tips that might help solve the conundrum – and, crucially, stop you coming across badly the next time you meet someone new.

A new paper, interestingly titled: 'Impression mismanagement: People as inept self-presenters', concludes that most bad behaviour is actually accidental. Like doing a handstand without realising you’ve kicked someone in the face, what we think appears impressive can turn into a massive failure.

Here are some handy hints on what to avoid for next time you find yourself on receiving end of an unexpected eye roll:

1. Humblebragging

You’re lying alone on a beach, ice-cold cocktail in hand as waves tickle your feet… Idyllic, apart from there is no one around to applaud your good fortune.

In the modern world, social media is the next step. But how not to sound like a jerk? “Sunburn hurts so much! But at least Caribbean cocktails makes it worth it,” you might tweet.

But not only does trying to hide boasting with humility rarely work, it comes across as insincere at best and manipulative at worst.

With an entire Twitter account dedicated to the sin, most of us know that the humblebrag is a no-no if you don’t want your follower count to drop. Or your friend count.

2. Back-handed compliments

If you’re going to compliment someone, it is best not to do so with a disclaimer. For example: “You’ve very smart for someone your age,” might sound nice but it reinforces existing hierarchies.

The very person you’re ‘complimenting’ is probably actually smarter than you gave credit for and will see your comment as what it is, a put-down.

3. Hypocrisy

Lecturing an audience about dirty smokers when you enjoyed a drunken cigarette the night before is never going to sell the forgiving, self-aware side of your personality. And assuming other people won’t notice your sleight of hand is a gamble that comes with more risks than advantages.

4. Cockiness

Perhaps unsurprisingly, research shows that we really don’t like people who big themselves up, especially if it means bringing others down. Not that you need to switch your pride for self-deprecation either. Saying “I’ve gotten so much better at drumming” rather than “I’m a better drummer than you” is a non-hostile way to feel good about yourself. And who doesn’t want to do that?

If you need living proof that the four examples above are major missteps in our shared quest to not be a jerk, take Donald Trump. His larger-than-life, blow-his-own-trumpet speeches (and tweets) might have secured him the White House, but if his approval ratings are anything to go by, his not-so-humble humblebragging can't be helping when he meets new world leaders.

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