We all want to make the best first impression and make sure we’re remembered by others.
The problem is that there is a load of stuff out there on how to make a good first impression, which can overwhelm us. We start to think too much about how to make a great impression rather than actually making a great first impression.
I see a lot of tips that say things like “Be confident”, “Have a good posture”, or “Present yourself well”. Essentially, you must be confident to make a good first impression not to mention a lasting impression.
But what if you’re not naturally confident? How realistic is it to be confident if it doesn’t come naturally?
I can tell you right now that being confident is not the main thing that underpins a good first or lasting impression, it’s finding commonality.
The Importance of Finding Commonality
In the last 2.5 years, I’ve had an 80% success rate with my interviews. Common feedback I get is that I make a great lasting impression. The theme underlying this is that I have found commonality with the interview panel.
There is a wealth of research to back-up the influence of commonality in our interactions. One study highlights that both actual and perceived similarity is associated with greater interpersonal attraction. This was for short, initial interactions. Other studies have found that great impressions form when people have similar traits.
Think about it — if you meet someone who likes the same type of music as you, who supports the same football team or who shares your views on climate change, you’re more likely to find them interesting and remember them.
That person doesn’t have to be confident and try and stand there like a boss, speak with authority or be decisive. If anything, those traits can actually backfire in a first impression, leaving someone thinking you’re a bit full of yourself.
I’ll openly admit that I’m not brimming with confidence in my interviews or when I meet people for the first time. Inside I’m extremely nervous and I am focussing too much on trying not to make a fool out of myself.
But, I always try to seek out commonalities because it makes me feel relaxed and comfortable with that person. Once I’m comfortable, the nerves disappear and I’m well on my way to making a lasting impression.
From research and experience, if you’re able to find some form of commonality you have a greater chance of leaving a lasting impression.
How to Find Commonality
In the situation I gave with an interview, it could arguably be easier to find commonality because you can have a look at the people who will be interviewing you way in advance.
You don’t have that option if you’re meeting someone for the first time and you don’t know their name beforehand. So how do you find commonality?
1. Actively Listen and Ask Questions
The best way to try and elicit commonality is to actually listen to what the person is saying and ask insightful questions. The reality is, most of us are bad listeners. We are probably more focused on what we have to say next rather than listening to the person we’re talking with.
However, if we actively focus on the person, take in the information and show them we’re listening through non-verbal cues like nodding our head, we’ll get to know more about them. This makes us aware of their interests and hobbies. We can then pick up on things we have in common with them and steer the conversation in this direction.
Asking questions alongside actively listening is a perfect strategy.
A good rule is the 80/20 rule by Bernard Ferrari, author of Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All. 80% of the time you should be actively listening to them. 20% of the time is your turn to reciprocate information and ask questions.
2. Read More
Your chances of finding a shared interest with someone multiplies dramatically if you simply read, daily.
I’m not talking just books, it can be stories, blog posts or even short articles on the news. It’s also good to delve into other topics too.
Say your scrolling through your phone and see something on cryptocurrency, history or sports, just have a quick glance. You never know when one of these topics can come up in a conversation.
That’s when you can make a meaningful input to the conversation, making people remember you. You can also find commonality with someone because you’ll have at least some knowledge of a random topic that they might be interested in.
3. Share Your Common Interest
This interaction isn’t just about you finding commonality, it’s about the other person noticing you have a shared interest too.
It’s no good if the person is telling you how much they love seahorses and you do too but you’re just standing there listening in silence. Reciprocate.
Open up about your interest in the topic too.
Trust me, you’ll see the enthusiasm in the other person and before you know it, you’ve made a wonderful, lasting impression.
It’s worth me mentioning that finding commonality and sharing it will naturally help with your confidence too. If you meet with someone who has a shared interest, you’re likely to become way more comfortable which will boost how confident you feel too.
Confidence is portrayed as something vital to help make a brilliant first and lasting impression.
In my opinion, that’s not true. As someone who has lacked confidence in the past, I have been able to leave a lasting impression by simply finding a shared interest with the people that I interact with.
Don’t get me wrong; confidence can help but it’s not the pivotal component in any interaction.
Instead, try to find commonality by using these three techniques:
- Actively listen and ask questions.
- Read more to build up your knowledge on different topics.
- Share your common interest to help them acknowledge that you have a commonality.