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Malcolm Levene

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First Impressions Count

Posted: 02/07/11 01:47 PM ET

Of late, a number of people have asked how they can improve the first impression they make. Although there's not a one-size-fits-all solution, I hope the tips below will provide you with a helpful taster.

Making a positive first impression is a choice each of us has. Therefore, the impression we make largely depends on how important it is for us to do so. Some say that in order to make a positive impression one needs charisma, which may be true; however, for the rest of us it's a different story. The word charisma is a derivative of the Greek word for charm. Being charming is a choice, not necessarily a birthright. The people we consider to have charm are either, as contemporary psychologists describe, people who have a natural pattern for it, or people whose emotional intelligence is higher than average.

When I talk to groups about image, particularly in the corporate arena, there's a kind of restlessness in the room. It's as if this aspect of making a positive impression is off limits. Having been responsible for what I describe as the Outer Branding of numerous politicians, actors, captains of industry and public figures, I can assure you that how we attire ourselves is very serious business. Keep it simple, and continue to remind yourself that your clothes and accessories are like the scenery in a play -- the background. The focus is always on the performer. You want you to be the focus, not what you're wearing.

As I often say to clients and groups, "I want people to remember you for who you are, not for what you wear." Start by taking the time to decide how you'd like your "background scenery" to support your personality. Begin by creating a Personal Style Statement, something like, "I am a sophisticated, low-key, stylish person." Or, "My Personal Style is quirky, individual and one-of-a-kind." Then, when you go shopping for clothes and accessories, etc., you will have a better idea of who you're shopping for.

Always ensure your grooming is top-notch, this includes the normal grooming regimes we all know about. Also, check that there's nothing distracting about your appearance, for instance, a piece of clothing that has a small stain, a button missing, shoes that need re-heeling, or an accessory that would have benefited from being more carefully chosen. What others tend to remember about people they meet for the first time are aspects of that person that represent a distraction -- no matter how insignificant the distraction may seem.

Making a positive first impression is relevant to business and to life. Doing so enables us to feel good about ourselves. Knowing that we've made a positive impression raises our level of confidence and self-esteem significantly. The amount of effort, energy, passion, enthusiasm and budget we allocate to the endeavour determines the outcome. So don't skimp on spending time or money when it comes to investing in you. Like any good investment, it can take a little while for the dividends to come to fruition. And when this happens, which it will, you'll know your investment in you was a sound one.

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