Like it or not, the world’s built on first impressions. People’s perceptions of you—how much they remember or pay attention to you, whether they’re engaged by you, whether they’ll have or even want another conversation with you, what they’ll tell others about you, and why they may seek you out in the future—are all based on their initial encounter with you.
And knowing what kind of first impression you make involves a little self-awareness. But obviously, being self-aware doesn’t magically occur overnight. It requires you to understand the ways you shine and the ways you suck. You have to know your pitfalls and shortcomings. (We’re sure you don’t have many, but we all have things we can work on.) It’s worth taking the time to become though. Because when you’re self-aware, you learn to play to your strengths and minimize or eliminate your weaknesses.
This takes practice, of course. So, that’s why we suggest people start by taking inventory—as in make a list, check it more than twice, and write down your answers on a piece of paper. When you’re forced to write it down, you’re forced to be truthful with yourself.
This is for your eyes only (unless you want to share it with someone else), so we encourage you to be honest. By looking into yourself, you can determine what needs adjustment, what calls for just a little tweaking, and what works in your favor:
- Do you understand the concept of personal space?
- Do you exude confidence or arrogance?
- Are you a listener or a talker?
- Do your words carry weight or air?
- Are you a good public speaker, or are you better online?
- Are you comfortable walking up to a stranger and striking up a conversation, or would that give you a panic attack?
- How do others really see you upon first contact?
- What sorts of things are you really bad at when it comes to meeting with people?
- Do you need help getting organized?
- Are you a good decision maker?
- Do you take time getting back to people?
- Do you hate conversations that aren’t about your interests or matters of importance to you?
- Do you like small talk?
- Are you naturally inquisitive or close-minded?
- Have you ever changed your position on a deeply held belief?
- Do you lie? If so, why? Is it because you want to feel self-important or because you feel like you need to keep up and fit in?
- Finally, are you okay with what you’ve learned about yourself? Is there anything that bears correction?
So, now what?
Well, we’ve done this ourselves, by the way. And what we learned has helped us immensely in our own lives.
Scott, for example, often makes business decisions in the moment, but sometimes that’s been a negative in his life. Earlier in his career, acting quickly on introducing people backfired. He skipped critical thinking steps that could have avoided burning bridges or turning people off. After doing this inventory and realizing this, he’s changed the way he makes decisions. While he still makes business decisions daily, he rarely acts impulsively anymore.
Ryan, on the other hand, is a better listener than talker in group situations. This can be a strength and also a weakness, especially when more outgoing people are involved in a group conversation and his instinct is to take the backseat and let them tell their stories. “It’s great to be a good listener, but difficult for me to make an impression and drive the conversation in these situations,” he says. To compensate, he often carves out one-on-one time with the people who matter to him. Sharing a cup of coffee at a cozy café is probably more valuable than an open bar at a group networking event.
Try this exercise out for yourself and use it as a jumping off point to decide in what situations you shine, and in which situations you might not. The more you understand about yourself, the easier it’ll be for you to create those powerful connections and become a superconnector.
Excerpted from Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships That Matter by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh. Copyright © 2018. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. It has been published here with permission.