"When we put our best foot forward, the other one had better be good enough to stand on." - Cullen Hightower
By Bob Cox
Remember when you were a freshman in high school? When you were headed out on a first date, what was your main concern? I'm guessing wanting to make a good impression ranked high on your list.
So to prepare for making that good impression, you may have gotten a haircut... put on a new outfit... practiced a few witty remarks... and reminded yourself to smile at your date as much as possible.
If you think about it, preparing to make a favorable first impression is something you do all the time. You do it when you interview for a job, meet potential clients, have that first dinner with your fiance's parents, and in many other situations.
Making a good first impression begins with a conscious decision to put your best foot forward. And then, whenever and wherever possible, you must make the effort to live up to that first time.
When you stop deciding to put your best foot forward and quit making the effort, your image will suffer and your financial or social goals will go off track. And here's a harsh truth: It is much harder to reclaim a favorable impression than to sustain one.
Let's say you applied for a job and are confident you made an excellent first impression on the Human Resources director. You wore your best suit, you researched the company to prepare for your interview, and you were courteous and friendly when you met. You promptly followed up the interview with a thank-you note. You are happy, thinking you have done all you can to secure the job. So you begin arranging your life around the job offer you know is forthcoming. However, it never arrives. Instead, you receive: "We selected another candidate. Thanks for your interest."
What happened? Maybe you were rude to the director's secretary. Maybe the handwriting on your thank-you note was illegible or your resume was full of typos. You may have been well-prepared and well-dressed. You may have had all the right answers during the interview. But if you made other impressions that didn't measure up, that great first impression you worked so hard on is gone.
Successfully achieving your goals includes having people think well of you over and over again. To maintain and reinforce a positive first impression, follow these simple guidelines:
1. Know what you want from each new encounter.
2. Greet everyone with a smile. Smiling relaxes people and draws them to you.
3. Feel positive about yourself - and look like you do. Whenever I have to make a good impression, I say to myself "It's show time!" and put on my happy face.
4. Use your friendly voice. Saying "Hi, nice to meet you" with enthusiasm goes a long way.
5. Extend your hand first, and give a firm handshake. I have met people who shake hands so weakly that all I can think is "What are they afraid of?"
6. When having a conversation, lean slightly forward. This shows that you are interested in what the other person is saying.
But it's not only important to make a good first impression. You have to make a good second impression too.
Here's a personal story that illustrates what I mean...
I became a private pilot in March 2006. That was one of my proudest personal achievements.
There are a small number of flight schools in my area. I went down to the closest one to check it out. They seemed legitimate: They had quite a few students. They had training airplanes for their students. And they had an adequate staff to meet my needs. Based on the limited research I had done, I determined that their price was fair. Overall, I got a good first impression.
It was the second impression that didn't make it.
You see, during the course of my training, I started noticing things that made me uncomfortable about the way they did business. For example, though they really wanted as many training planes in the air as possible (because that's how they made their money), they appeared to neglect such vital things as maintenance and customer satisfaction.
I continued despite my discomfort. Eventually, I completed my training. After the FAA check ride, I earned my private pilot's license. However, since that day, I have not gone back to lease one of their airplanes or take lessons for advanced certification. Although I achieved my personal goal (attaining my private pilot's license), the negative "second impression" the school left on me prevented them from achieving what should have been their primary goal: to turn me into a long-term customer.
When a private pilot receives his license, the learning process is only beginning. I still had a lot of money to spend on completing my education.
I found another training school, have since purchased my own airplane, and use this new flight facility for all my aviation needs. To my delight, this has been an extremely rewarding experience. I enjoy spending my time (and money) at an establishment that exhibits a warm, welcoming, and supportive environment.
The contrast is shocking. Both businesses make the effort to give off a good first impression... but only one works to maintain that good impression every time. And - not surprisingly - I prefer to patronize the company that cares about making a positive impression over and over again.
Keeping yourself in the best possible light isn't always easy. But, as I said, it's harder - maybe even impossible - to restore a tarnished image.
Remember: Your power to impress or alienate others is a matter of personal choice.
Success is about your willingness to keep the big picture in mind every step of the way. Choose to make that extra effort and go that extra mile. In both the short and long run, you will be happier and accelerate the achievement of your goals.
[Ed. Note: Robert L. Cox is the creator of The Billionaire Way and is the "voice" of ETR's Total Success Achievement program. Get weekly motivational messages and twice-monthly teleseminars full of proven advice to help you stay on track with your goals and push past any obstacles in your path. Learn more here.]