6 Ways To Make A Great Impression On Everyone You Meet

Robert Greene
Nov 28, 2018 · 6 min read

This piece was adapted from my latest book The Laws of Human Nature.

“You appeared to read a good deal upon her which was quite invisible to me.” “Not invisible but unnoticed, Watson. You did not know where to look, and so you missed all that was important. I can never bring you to realize the importance of sleeves, the suggestiveness of thumbnails, or the great issues that may hang from a boot-lace.” — Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Watson, A case of Identity, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

In general the word “role-playing” has negative connotations. We contrast it with authenticity. A person who is truly authentic doesn’t need to play a role in life, we think, but can simply be him– or herself. This concept has value in friendships and in our intimate relationships, where we can hopefully drop the masks we wear and feel comfortable in displaying our unique qualities. But in our professional life it is much more complicated. When it comes to a specific job or role to play in society, we have expectations about what is professional. We would be made to feel uncomfortable if our airline pilot suddenly started to act like a car salesman, or a mechanic like a therapist, or a professor like a rock musician. If such people acted completely like themselves, dropping their masks and refusing to play the role, we would question their competence.

A politician or public figure whom we see as more authentic than others is generally better at projecting such a quality. They know that appearing humble, or discussing their private life, or telling an anecdote that reveals some vulnerability will have the “authentic” effect. We are not seeing them as they are in the privacy of their home. Life in the public sphere means wearing a mask, and sometimes some people wear the mask of “authenticity.” Even the hipster or the rebel is playing a role, with prescribed poses and tattoos. They do not suddenly have the freedom to wear a business suit, because others in their circle would begin to question their sincerity, which depends on displaying the right appearances. People have more freedom to bring more of their personal qualities into the role they play once they have established themselves and their competence is no longer in question. But this is always within limits.

Consciously or unconsciously most of us adhere to what is expected of our role because we realize our social success depends on this. Some may refuse to play this game, but in the end they are marginalized and forced to play the outsider role, with limited options and decreasing freedom as they get older. In general, it is best to simply accept this dynamic and derive some pleasure from it. You are not only aware of the proper appearances you must present, but you know how to shape them for maximum effect. You can then transform yourself into a superior actor on the stage of life and enjoy your moment in the limelight.

The following are some basics in the art of impression management:

1. Master the nonverbal cues.

2. Be a method actor.

3. Adapt to your audience.

4. Create the proper first impression.

5. Use dramatic effects.

6. Project saintly qualities.

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Realize the following: the word personality comes from the Latin persona, which means mask. In the public we all wear masks, and this has a positive function. If we displayed exactly who we are and spoke our minds truthfully we would offend almost everyone and reveal qualities that are best concealed. Having a persona, playing a role well actually protects us from people looking too closely at us, with all of the insecurities that would churn up. In fact, the better you play your role, the more power you will accrue, and with power you will have the freedom to express more of your peculiarities. If you take this far enough the persona you present will match many of your unique characteristics, but always heightened for effect.


This piece was adapted from my newest book The Laws of Human Nature, now available everywhere books are sold. The Laws of Human Nature was six years in the making and is the culmination of my life’s study of power, psychology, and history. Click here to learn more.

Robert Greene

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Bestselling author of The Laws of Human Nature, The 48 Laws of Power, Mastery, and more. https://amzn.to/2CXnmlL