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A Shot of Espresso: 7 Timeless Tips to Make a Great First Impression

"Hi, my name is Forrest, Forrest Gump!" If you've ever seen the movie Forrest Gump, played by actor Tom Hanks, you can probably recall that he always introduced himself by stating his first and last name. As a matter of fact, he had impeccable manners! As slow-witted as Forrest Gump seemed, he made a lasting first impression on people that propelled him toward extraordinary life experiences and success.

Anyone who wants to make a great first impression needs a set of ground rules for behavior. Whether at an important job interview, having lunch with colleagues or entertaining influential clients, how you conduct yourself may make or break you in a relationship, career or business. Here are 7 ways to make a lasting impression in any setting.

1. Always introduce yourself.

Introduce yourself to others whenever the opportunity arises, unless you already know them. It makes people feel valued regardless of their status or position. Remember to use your first and last name. I can't tell you how many people I know with the first name John. Adding your last name not only gives more information about who you are, but it also communicates a sense of pride and confidence in where you come from.

"You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and yours may be in the hands of the receptionist."- Harvey Mackay

2. Give a firm handshake.

Not only does this simple gesture demonstrate that you’re polite, confident and approachable, it also sets the tone for any potential future professional relationships. In a very casual work atmosphere, you might be able to get away with a nod or a hello, but it’s worth it to make the extra effort to offer your hand. Please avoid the 'grip of death' handshake. People who do this are simply overcompensating.

"Handshakes and hugs will always trump likes and shares." - C.C. Chapman

3. Use appropriate manners.

Always say “please” and “thank you.” Today, sending a thank you email is perfectly acceptable, but a handwritten thank you note is always a nice touch. I'm a classic gentleman so I still respond to people with a "yes sir or yes ma'am." Unfortunately, today, many people associate these phrases with age, but for me it's the epitome of southern hospitality, manners and social grace. It's the difference between handing someone a Kleenex or a fine silk scarf to wipe their nose.

"Friends and good manners will carry you where money won't go." - Margaret Walker

4. Watch your language.

Verbal and written communication are often much less formal than in times past but be careful to choose your words wisely. Of course, derogatory, rude or offensive language is unacceptable, but so is slang. While it may be commonplace in our society, it’s never acceptable in a professional atmosphere.

“A man's character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.” - Mark Twain

5. Acknowledge others.

When someone approaches you, acknowledge him or her. If you’re in the middle of something important, it’s fine to ask them to wait a minute while you finish. If you pass someone in the hallway or on the street, but don’t have time to talk, at least wave a hand and say hello. Busyness is not an excuse to ignore people.

"Moral authority comes from following universal and timeless principles like honesty, integrity, treating people with respect." - Stephen Covey

6. Don’t talk too loudly.

When you talk too loudly, it raises the stress level of the people around you. It implies that you can't reason with people and rely on intimidation to get your point across. Yelling or even talking too loudly makes people think you need attention. Don’t be that guy!

“A fool is made more of a fool, when their mouth is more open than their mind.” - Anthony Liccione

7. Show genuine interest.

Keep eye contact and make an effort to truly listen to what others are saying. We are so easily distracted in this climate of increasingly short attention spans; we often can’t wait for the other person to hurry up and finish so we can move on to the next thing. Resist the lure of distraction and haste. Take the time to ask questions and show an interest in the other person’s thoughts.

"The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said." - Peter Drucker

A Shot of Espresso is a column where I share quick tips to jumpstart your day towards success. An Espresso is a concentrated form of coffee served in small, strong shots and is the base for a number of coffee drinks. It's made from the same beans as coffee but is stronger, thicker, and higher in caffeine.

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