How to Make a Good First Impression

‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’ as the old saying goes. In this article we’ll look at how to make sure that you make a good first impression on a US colleague.

The key is for the person you’re meeting to feel that they would enjoy and value working with you. Coming across as a relaxed, confident colleague will help them to relax and be confident with you, making all of your interactions both easier and also more productive.

Let’s take a look at the key elements of coming across as relaxed and confident..

1.            Dress Appropriately

Before you leave for a meeting make sure that you are dressed appropriately. This will vary by industry and location but generally appropriate dress in corporate settings is a business suit.

If you’re unsure what to wear choose the more formal of the options that you are considering. Overdressing is not something that you can be criticised for, whereas underdressing is.

This article contains a good guide in case if you’re unsure.

2.            Be On Time

Being on time says that you are well organised and value the time of the person you are meeting. Aim to arrive a few minutes early for your appointment. Arriving early also gives you time to gather your thoughts so that you are relaxed before the meeting starts.

Turning up late, whatever the reason, is always a bad way to start. Plan for unexpected delays and allow a little extra time for your journey.

3. Smile, Shake Their Hand Firmly And Look Them In The Eye

The way that you introduce yourself to someone is key. You want them to be relaxed, confident and open. The best way to do this when greeting someone is to smile, shake their hand firmly (but not too firmly!) and to look them in the eye.

Some people find that shaking someone’s hand firmly and looking them in the eye feels confrontational. It is important to remember that it isn’t viewed as such. In the US relaxed, confident people will naturally do this when introducing themselves and so they expect others to introduce themselves in the same way.

4. Body Language

How you say something is often much more important that what you say. This has been proven in multiple studies, so you need to take care with your body language.

Relaxed, confident people are open and engaged, they are not tense, and their body language will naturally follows this. This means you should try to speak and move relatively slowly. Rushing makes you appear tense or stressed. Similarly, avoid any body language that is ‘closed’ and makes you appear as if you are hiding or trying to shrink the space (for example, folding your arms, hunching your shoulders), that you are taking up. Put your shoulders back and smile.

Finally don’t play with things (Eg hair, notebooks, pens etc).

If you need more tips on body language and confidence this article contains some useful tips.

Small Talk

The last point on this list is expect to make some small talk. When you are meeting someone for the first time your aim is to try to make a connection with them, and you can’t do that without getting them to relax.

Small talk is important as a way to build a bond with someone so don’t try to rush it.

To get the conversation started don’t worry about having something complicated or clever to say. A simple question about how someone’s weekend was if it is a Monday or Tuesday or a comment on a local news item or the weather is all you need to get things going. 

So there you have it. The basics of making a good first impression on a US colleague. It goes without saying that you will need to be well prepared for the meeting. This is just how to get things started correctly.

This is a guest post written by Ben Richardson. Ben Richardson is the managing director of Acuity Training, a UK based personal development and IT training provider.


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Note: Authentic Journeys features Ben's article on the blog, but is not connected with Acuity Training. To learn more about their services, click through to their website.

Ask About Office TImings - Small Talk India & America

"What are your office timings?" 

This is a common question in Indian English. While this question is acceptable in the U.S., also, in American English, we would say it differently. The phrase "office timings" is not commonly used in American English. Listen to the video below to learn the common phrase or question we can use in place of "What are your office timings?" 

This video is one of many in the series, "Small Talk: India vs. the U.S." In this series we will explore the differences between making small talk in business conversations in the U.S. and India, focusing on the differences between Indian English and American English while also looking at the acceptable and avoidable questions when interacting with Americans in business. 

If you can't see the video, click here

Jennifer Kumar, author of this blog, and video commentator, an American citizen is based in Kochi, India. She provides cross-cultural business training to Indians working on global teams with Americans. Contact us for more information.

Related Posts: 
Indian English Phrases Not Used in the U.S. 
American English Idioms about Time 
How to tell the time in American English 

Talking About "Back to School"

“There's 104 days of summer vacation, and school comes along just to end it…” 

The title song lyrics to the Disney cartoon Phineas and Ferb sums up the feeling that most American kids have between early August and early September. After a long summer vacation, kids and preparing to go back to school during this time of year. 

To clarify, no, kids do not have 104 days of summer vacation! School kids (grades 1-12) have about 60-70 days of summer vacation, while college students have about 100 days of summer vacation. Clearly with such a long summer vacation, preparing to go back to school is a big deal. 

What is “School Shopping”? 
While parents are a bit eager for their kids to go back to the routine of academics, kids are not usually so eager about going back to school and sitting at a desk all day. While that is true, many kids do get excited about school shopping. School shopping in the US consists of buying new clothes and a plethora of school supplies. Some schools send parents a letter in the mail with the checklist of supplies. While parents grumble about their budgets, vehemently stating, “money doesn’t grow on trees,” the items on this list can reach in to the hundreds of dollars. It is easy to see how the stores and retail outlets cash in with their wide range of ‘back to school’ sales. 

Are Back-to-School Sales Only for Students? 
While it is a debatable issue if back to school sales save shoppers money, back to school sales do help average office-going professionals as well. Many of the school supplies like pens, pencils, papers, stationary and other equipment are found in a wide variety and selection in almost all stores this time of the year. For anyone who wants to stock up on office supplies, this is the time of year to do it.

While the stores are rolling in the cash, and families spend their hard earned dollars to prepare their kids for going back to school, children mourn the last few days of freedom of the summer vacation and dread the early mornings and long days sitting behind their desk at school.

Some common phrases/questions/small talk Facebook friends have shared that are related to the “Back to School” season:

What is the tax-free weekend? 
The US State governments are exempting certain school supplies from sales tax on a certain weekend, usually a few weeks prior to start of school (e.g. Texas and Virginia are two states with theirs in mid August.). This has almost become mandatory for the states; otherwise they lose revenue to neighboring states where they DO have the tax holiday. Of course, some say it is not worth the long lines and the rush to save a few dollars. Note, that while this tax-free weekend may appear to be the time to shop, saving you money, for some it only saves enough to go out to dinner or for going out to a movie (maybe US $10-30 or so).

What is "meet the teacher" night?
Stop when lights are flashing.
Some schools open the school for a few hours one evening a week or so before school starts, so kids and parents can meet their teacher(s) for the upcoming year before the first day of school. It’s also possible that kids will be able to meet some of their prospective classmates who will also attend this event. These events are not mandatory, so not everyone attends.

What are first day of school pictures?
The tradition of taking photos of kids in their new clothes on the first day of school, or getting on the bus the first day, or even walking in the school on the first day is so ingrained in the US culture, that Americans may find it interesting that people of other cultures do not have this “tradition.” That being said, having lived in India the past two years, I have seen more and more Indian parents in India adapting this tradition, posting their kids first day photos to Facebook! (Note there are several other trends in first day and last day of school pictures that are in vogue.)

Joining any teams this fall?/Playing any fall sports? 
This question is directed more at Junior High (7th and 8th grade) or High School (9-12th grade) students. In many American schools, fall sports practice sessions may start a few weeks before classes even start!

More images of back to school:

A fun word search activity was created for a training I delivered on small talk, holidays and special times of the year for Americans. This word search is found in the PDF below. Enjoy!

Jennifer Kumar is an American living in Kochi, Kerala, India helping Indians learn more about American culture to make small talk, forge better working relationships and be successful in cross-cultural business and outsourcing relationships.

Related Posts: 
Holidays in 2016
How to make small talk with US Americans 
Small talk for the 4th of July  
How Americans Think About Vacations 

Note: Store logos, names, brand names and ads used as examples only. Authentic Journeys is not being paid for any specific product or retail placement in this post.

Photo credits, listed by order seen in post: Jennifer Kumar (first 2), Preethi Kannath, Josh Beasley (school bus), Jennifer Kumar, Diane Cordell (back to school signs), all others n/a.
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