Making that Impression

When you meet people, at work, in interviews, at parties, there is a lot of judging going on, and the good or bad impression you make usually isn’t based on the words you say.  A recent article in Forbes magazine suggests that you’re most often evaluated on your unconscious behaviors, the things you probably never think about.

For instance?  Apparently corporate interviewers are now in the habit of taking potential new hires to lunch, and watching how they treat the wait staff.  If you’re especially nice to the interviewers and other “important” people, but treat the waiter with disdain or indifference, then the conclusion is that you’d be a jerk with subordinates and support staff if hired into the office environment.

Checking your phone during a conversation is considered a sign of many negative things: a lack of respect, inability to give someone your full attention, poor listening skills, and, interestingly, a lack of willpower.  At the least, it lowers the quality of face-to-face interactions.

People also notice how long it takes you to show interest and curiosity about them.  We’ve all experienced conversations where someone talked about themselves the entire time; your conclusion is that they loud, self-absorbed “takers.” People who ask questions and show an interest in the other person give off the impression that they will be reciprocators who work well in teams.

Showing up late for the meeting or engagement is always a turn-off to new relationships, leading people to think that you lack respect and tend to procrastinate—or, worse, that you’re lazy or disinterested.  Interestingly, research shows that this is usually not the case—that tardiness is typically seen in people who multitask, or are high in relaxed, Type B personality traits.  But you should recognize the impression you’re making, however fair or unfair it may be.

The point here is that what you say matters less than what you do when people are evaluating you as a friend, colleague, romantic interest or new hire.  If you want to change how you’re perceived, addressing these nonverbal tendencies would be a great start.

About the Author: Bob Veres has been a commentator, author and consultant in the financial services industry for more than 20 years.  Over his 20-year career in the financial services world, Mr. Veres has worked as editor of Financial Planning magazine; as a contributing editor to the Journal of Financial Planning; as a columnist and editor-at-large of Dow Jones Investment Advisor magazine; and as editor of Morningstar’s advisor web site:

Mr. Veres has been named one of the most influential people in the financial planning profession by Investment Advisor magazine and Financial Planning magazine, was granted the NAPFA Special Achievement Award by the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, and most recently the Heart of Financial Planning Distinguished Service Award from the Denver-based Financial Planning Association. 



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