Tips your students can use when meeting with Admissions Officers (or anyone else)

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article, “The Mistakes You Make in a Meetng’s First Milliseconds”. There are some great tips that your students should use when first meeting someone.

A happy expression, with the corners of the mouth turned upward and eyebrows relaxed, is likely to inspire trust, research shows. People teamed in an investment game with online partners whose facial images appeared friendly and reliable entrusted their partners with 42% more money than those whose partners looked downbeat and threatening, says a 2012 study by British and U.S. researchers.

Facial expressions are important even when you think no one is looking. People tend to distrust others whose “dominant face,” or habitual expression, is grumpy, disapproving or angry, says Judson Vaughn, an impression-management consultant. And suddenly switching that downbeat expression to a 1,000-watt smile, just because someone is looking, is likely to undermine trust even more, he says.

Mr. Vaughn, a former character actor, says casting directors’ snap judgments about him, based on fleeting first impressions in the audition room, used to cost him roles he wanted in TV and film years ago.

He began adapting his facial expression, body language and stance the moment he entered the room to suit the role he wanted. Mr. Vaughn landed more roles as a trustworthy good guy by wearing a pleasant expression that warmed to a smile when he faced the director, shoulders erect, at a respectful distance. Mr. Vaughn, chief executive of First Impressions HQ in Atlanta, also won more bad-guy roles by making sure the director’s first impression was of a shifty character—by hunching his shoulders, wearing a hostile expression and eyeing the director askance.

Lisa Peers, an actor and workplace-communications coach, advises clients to prepare themselves mentally to impress new acquaintances by pausing for a few moments beforehand to think about what they want to accomplish with the other person.

She recommends using breathing techniques to foster relaxed, confident movement, and striving for “symmetry in your stance, with your shoulders straight and even. That first entrance in the room is the same as that first entrance of your character on stage,” says Ms. Peers, chief executive of Peers & Players, a workplace-communication training firm in San Francisco.

When Ms. Blair greets a new acquaintance, she avoids sending mixed messages. She stands with her hands relaxed and visible at her side, rather than hidden in her pockets or crossed defensively in front of her. This suggests that your warm greeting is genuine and you have no secret agenda or need to protect yourself, she says.

Mr. Vaughn also advises adjusting your stance and posture, leaning or turning toward the other person to show you’re focused intently on what he or she is thinking and feeling. Rather than extending your arm stiffly to shake hands at a distance, relax your arm and lower your elbow to your side, drawing the other person closer to you, he says. “This shows you’ve made a subconscious decision to trust the person, without having spoken a word,” he says.

Gain Trust Without Saying a Word

To increase the chances that a stranger will see you as a potential ally:

  • Avoid hunching over to stare into your phone before meeting others.
  • Keep your elbow at your side when shaking hands, drawing the other person closer than arm’s length.
  • Lean forward and focus intently on the other person when he or she is speaking.
  • Stand erect with shoulders squared, balancing your weight evenly.
  • Smile in response to what others say or do, rather than grinning nonstop.
  • Remain mindful of what others are thinking and feeling.

Your students will have many opportunities over the course of their lives to make a great impression. Keeping these tips in mind can be the first step towards achieving their goals when they meet someone. Here is a link to the article: