When you first meet up someone, you have just ten seconds to make an impression on them.
Or, to put it another way, in the first ten seconds after meeting a new person, you will be making a specific impression on them whether you like it or not.
Prior to opening your mouth to speak, you non-verbally imprint the other person with your character – the image you present to the world – coming across as effective or ineffectual, confident or nervous, friendly or unfriendly.
Even with someone you’ve met before, you can find out the whole tone of your contact by what your body language communicates at the very start.
How do you initially make contact?
Let’s Start, then, with the basics. How do you initially make contact? The most important way humans usually do so is with their eyes, so use yours efficiently.
Don’t use an off-putting look but do keep your eyes on the person you’re getting ready to greet so that, when they turn to you, you’re ready to meet their gaze.
If you open your eyes just slightly more widely than normal, this approximates the fleeting ‘eyebrow flash’ that humans give suddenly when they acknowledge another person, and which will automatically make your companion feel welcomed and respected.
Follow through the eye contact
After the initial greeting, follow through that eye contact. Humans of course turn toward those that they respect and value, so let your body and head direction focus on the other person, and fight any temptation to look or move away.
You’ll be much more impressive if you face directly, lean in slightly, and display confidence and friendliness with a smile. (A good trick to keep in mind is, if you’re feeling nervous and finding the encounter difficult is to smile quickly and widely three or four times, rather than try to maintain a fixed grin, which will die away slowly and embarrassingly.)
Donâ€™t Lose the Chance to Create a Bond
Then you will be ready to move into a formal greetings ceremony involving words and touch. The direction in which your body is turned and angled toward the other person can inevitably extend itself into offering your hand to be shaken.
Don’t be shy of this; humans are programmed to feel closer to someone they’ve touched, so missing out that part of the ritual means you lose the chance to create a bond.
A tip from politicians, by the way, is to forget worrying about what to say, and simply repeat the person’s name as you look and touch. This not only makes your companion feel important, but links the person’s name and face in your mind, making recall easier.
Five Elements of Greeting
All the way, of course, you won’t be acting in a vacuum. The other person will be giving you clear signals as to whether they support of what you’re doing.
Keep checking frequently to see how friendly or formal they want to be, and then adapt those five separate elements of your greeting: eye contact, body lean, smile, touch, and words.
If meeting an opponent in a crucial sports match, for instance, you may want to tone down the smile and shake hands crisply and briefly.
Categories of Human Communication
Your words and behavior tell people who you are. Human communication and behavior fall into three basic categories: Passiveness, Aggressiveness, and Assertiveness.
The reluctance or inability to express what you think and feel confidently is known as passiveness. In the past, our society rewarded women for being passive and men for being aggressive. But as more and more women voice their concerns in the workplace, this is changing.
Aggressive communication and behavior, whether direct or indirect, results in a critical remark of the other person, making her feel hurt, defensive, and humiliated.
Aggressive behavior does not take the other person’s goals or feelings into account. Only the aggressor’s goals are met. This often generates bitterness and frustration that later returns as resistance and dissension.
Think of a time when someone used aggressive communication at the cost of another person. How would you feel about approaching such a person? Aggression intimidates, demeans, and degrades another person.
Assertiveness is an alternative to the extremes of passiveness and aggressiveness. It is being confident in expressing what you think, feel, and believe, standing up for your rights while respecting the rights of others.
Assertion is rooted in respect: respect for yourself and for the other person. People tend to cooperate when they are approached or advised in a way that respects the needs of both parties. Assertive communication frequently allows both persons to get what they want.