Relationships First Impressions: Everything You Need to Make a Good Introduction By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry Facebook Twitter Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management. Learn about our editorial process Published on March 07, 2023 Print Jordi Salas/Moment/Getty Table of Contents View All Table of Contents How to Make a Good First Impression Signs of a Good Impression Why It Matters Overcoming a Bad Impression First impressions are the initial opinions that people form the first time they meet another person. Such judgments occur very quickly and are based on the immediate, limited information that is available. The first impressions people form are often based on immediate observations about characteristics, such as how others look, how they act, what they say, and their general attitude. However, people also bring their own past experiences, expectations, biases, and misapprehensions to the situations when forming impressions. While first impressions play an important role in how people feel about others, how they treat them, and the future development of the relationship, such perceptions can be biased and inaccurate. Because first impressions can be wrong, it is important to remember that you should look at other information beyond your initial perceptions when you are making judgments about other people. This article discusses what you can do to make a good first impression and how to gauge whether or not you have succeeded. It also offers tips for what you can do to help overcome a bad first impression. How to Make a Good First Impression Making a good first impression is important, particularly in certain situations. If you are trying to make a good impression on other people, there are some strategies that can help. Be Aware of Your Body Language Nonverbal signals can convey a great deal of information, so it is important to make sure that your body language reinforces the impression you are trying to make. Maintain an open posture and make sure you keep your body angled toward the other person. Sit or stand straight and keep your arms at your sides and your legs straight. Crossing your arms or legs can seem closed off or even defensive. Watch Your Expressions In addition to using good body language, be sure to watch how you are responding with your facial expressions. Smiling, for example, can help convey warmth and genuine interest. If you are feeling tense, such as during a job interview or while speaking in public, try to maintain a relaxed expression. Researchers have found that people perceive people with happy expressions as more trustworthy. Dress Appropriately Appearance, including how you dress, can help convey information about who you are to others. If you are dressed correctly for the occasion, it may help people form a good impression of you. This doesn't mean that you can't express yourself through your appearance, but it is important to consider how you want to be perceived. Choose clothing that looks neat, is suited to the occasion, and helps you feel comfortable and confident when meeting new people. Different situations have different expectations. A job interview would necessitate a more formal, professional appearance, whereas meeting a new friend for coffee would involve more casual dress. Consider Your Words When speaking to others, focus on using language that is polite, respectful, and non-judgmental. While there are certain opinions or subjects you might feel comfortable discussing with people who already know you well, it is best to try to be considerate of other people's feelings and backgrounds when you are first introduced. Knowing how to make small talk can be helpful. Neutral topics such as the weather, hobbies, sports, travel, and food can be great icebreakers. Just be sure to avoid critical or controversial opinions, such as trash-talking the other person's favorite sports team. Instead, try asking open-ended questions about the other person, such as what they are reading or what they enjoy doing in their free time. It can be a great way to convey genuine interest and help the other person form the impression that you are attentive and genuine. Show Interest in Others When you are speaking to someone new, practice active listening. Be genuinely interested in what they have to say and make sure that you are listening to their responses. Focus on the other person is also a great strategy if you are feeling anxious about meeting new people. By concentrating on the other person, you're less likely to focus on your own nervousness. If you are nervous on a first date, for example, focus on the other person. Express interest in what they have to say and ask questions in a way that feels natural (and not like an interrogation or job interview). How to Know If You’ve Made a Good First Impression It isn't always easy or even possible to tell if you've made a good first impression on others. However, there are clues that you can watch for that might provide a bit of insight into what the other person is thinking and feeling: Positive feedback: In some cases, people might offer direct feedback about how they are feeling about your meeting. A job interviewer, for example, might tell a job candidate that they are exactly right for the role or indicate that they are impressed by the interviewee's credentials. Positive nonverbal signals: Body language that conveys warmth, comfort, and interest is always a good sign. If your conversation partner seems like they enjoy talking to you, it is a good sign that they are forming a positive first impression. Further interest: If the other person follows up and contacts you again after your initial meeting, you probably made a good first impression. For example, if you give a potential romantic partner your phone number and they follow up with a text or phone call, it means they were impressed enough to express interest in meeting again. Interest in socializing: If you've made a good first impression, the other person might reach out about getting together again. Or they might invite you to participate in some type of activity, such as another date or a potential work project. Why First Impressions Are Important People are evolutionarily wired to make snap judgments and quick decisions about others. These initial impressions may be based on very limited information, but they can affect how people see each other, set the tone for future interactions, and leave a lasting mark on how people view one another. Initial Impressions Affect Other Assumptions A phenomenon known as the halo effect can also impact people's impressions. If they perceive certain good qualities about you (like that you are nice, professional, and quick-witted), they are more likely to attribute other good qualities to you as well. First Impressions Affect Future Interactions Such impressions can have a significant impact in many ways. In the workplace, first impressions can play a role in employment opportunities, leadership roles, collaborations with others, and future advancement. In social situations, how well others think of you based on their first assessment might determine the rapport they feel and whether they end up trusting or liking you. Such impressions can also impact your love life. You might express interest in a potential partner, only to be rebuffed if you leave a poor first impression. The ability to accurately recognize other people's emotions is essential for effective social interaction, but some research suggests that poor first impressions can negatively affect the ability to read emotions based on facial expressions. First Impressions Are Long-Lasting As the famous saying goes, you never have a second chance to make a first impression, and, for better or worse, those first impressions tend to stick. This is because of a phenomenon known as the primacy effect. Essentially, people tend to have a better memory for the initial information they learned than they do for subsequent information that follows. When a person thinks about you, those first impressions are more likely to spring to mind over other details they may have learned, all thanks to the primacy effect. Researchers found that first impressions made based on briefly looking at a photograph of a stranger affected judgments when participants met the same stranger face-to-face a month later. How to Overcome a Bad First Impression First impressions are important, but everyone has an off day or makes mistakes in social situations. While it might be more of a challenge to change how you are perceived, there are things you can do to overcome a bad first impression. Apologize If your first meeting was marred by some type of mistake, reach out and apologize. Showing that you are aware of your gaffe and willing to take steps to overcome it can help improve the impression the other person has of you. Explain What Happened You don’t want to make excuses, but it can be helpful to provide an honest explanation for why your first meeting went poorly. You might explain that you were nervous, that you weren’t feeling well, that you were distracted, or that you were feeling stressed about something unrelated. No matter the cause, an honest explanation may help the other person better empathize with your situation. Suggest Another Meeting If you won’t see them in another setting, ask if you can have another opportunity to let them get to see the real you. However, be willing to respect the other person’s request if they decline your offer. For example, don't continue pursuing a potential romantic partner after they have told you they are not interested. Don't take it personally; instead, see it as a learning opportunity and try to apply those lessons when you meet someone new. Let Them See the Real You If you do get another opportunity to overcome a poor initial impression, make sure you are authentic and consistent in your future interactions. Let the other person see the “real you” in terms of context and situation. If it’s a second date, let them see the qualities that make you a great romantic partner, such as warmth, kindness, humor, and attentiveness. In a workplace setting, focus on showing your skills and professionalism. Demonstrating initiative, productivity, and good work habits are just a few ways to help overcome a poor first impression at work. Recap Poor first impressions happen for a variety of reasons, but there are things you can do to overcome them. Apologizing, offering an explanation, asking for another chance, and showing your best qualities can help others form a more accurate view of who you are and what you have to offer. A Word From Verywell Think of first impressions as a building block for relationships—they play a major part in setting the tone for future interactions. Making a good first impression is a great start, but there are also reasons why those initial interactions might be less-than-stellar. Stress, situational factors, and even the other person’s expectations can affect how they see you. A poor first impression can sink your chances professionally, socially, and romantically, so it is worth it to examine how others react to you in these settings. 5 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Tsankova E, Tair E. Meta-accuracy of very first impressions: A mini review. Front Psychol. 2021;12:736534. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.736534 Wood TJ. Exploring the role of first impressions in rater-based assessments. Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2014;19(3):409-427. doi:10.1007/s10459-013-9453-9 Thierry SM, Twele AC, Mondloch CJ. Mandatory first impressions: happy expressions increase trustworthiness ratings of subsequent neutral images. Perception. 2021;50(2):103-115. doi:10.1177/0301006620987205 Colonnello V, Russo PM, Mattarozzi K. First impression misleads emotion recognition. Front Psychol. 2019;10:527. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00527 Gunaydin G, Selcuk E, Zayas V. Impressions based on a portrait predict, 1-month later, impressions following a live interaction. Social Psychological and Personality Science. 2017;8(1):36-44.doi:10.1177/1948550616662123 By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Relationships Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.