Do you ever want to make an amazing first impression so much, that you start to overthink it? Have you felt the pressure of wanting to put your best foot forward so much, that you start to put unrealistic expectations of perfection on yourself? Whether you’re dating, going to an interview or you simply want to meet new people, make some new friends or talk to someone you admire, have you been putting it off because it’s too hard?
Meeting someone for the first time can be stressful and even a little scary for some of us, especially if you’re not yet confident meeting new people, or are the kind of person who prefers staying at home rather than going out. Maybe you’ve had some (or heard of some) not so great experiences and you start to think that every experience will be like that one. What if you knew a way that you could make great first impressions easier to do, and more fun, so that every time after that would be amazing too?
Maybe you’re doing what I used to do when I would set a date up with a new friend or someone I was interested in. It would start with chat through SMS or online with someone interesting, you’d have good connection and arrange to meet. As the day approaches, I would start imagining what I would say, what should I wear, how will I recognise him, what if we get along fine in SMS, but in person he’s not interested in me? What if we don’t ‘click’? All these thoughts would fly through my mind and each one of them would play through like a movie. It was so exhausting that when the time came to go on the date, I was tired and even more uncertain, to the point that I would find reasons not to go. Perhaps that was ok once off, but when it happened nearly every time, I started to think that there was something else going on with me.
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I used to distract myself
I would distract myself with other things that were more comfortable and I put meeting people on the backburner. I’d tell myself stories like “I’ve got plenty time” and when I have the perfect weight, have the right clothes or income, or live in a place that’s more visitor friendly or when I have more qualifications. I’d create all these excuses not to meet new people and as time went by, I focussed on my career, health and family more and more.
As more time passed, I began to wonder if I was missing out on something. What if there was a job that better suited me, or friends who would introduce me to new experiences or even have an intimate relationship. But how can you get into a relationship or start a new friendship if you are not willing to meet new people? I started to notice that there were other people around me who were shy too and who didn’t like going on dates, or meeting people. They were scared, made excuses and chose to focus on other things in their lives.
You might have heard someone say ‘A stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet.’ That’s true but if you are new to it, or shy, or not used to making new friends, it can appear daunting at first. Occasionally you might be able to override your feelings and force yourself to talk to someone, which sometimes works. Other times, if you have a lot going on in life, willpower only gets you so far and at some point it can end up feeling like it’s just easier to stay home and turn on Netflix.
Those who already have the skills to meet new people easily, don’t necessarily think about it first. They have been doing it so long that it’s ‘natural’ or ‘automatic’. To them, going up to someone and starting a conversation or chatting to the person next to them in the coffee line or on a flight, is second nature. For others, we think about what we are going to say, what we’ll wear, how we’ll sit, where to look, every detail is considered, filling up our mind. For many people who are shy they instantly feel shy or nervous and feel as if they have to force themselves to go and meet people or hold a conversation. If you can relate to this, and often find yourself thinking first about every move you’re going to make before you make it, chances are that all this thinking makes these situations feel awkward, when all you really want is for it to feel genuine and natural.
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So how did I start to overcome the fear of meeting for the first time?
How do we learn a new thing? Do we do it once, and suddenly we are the best at it? Yeah right, unlikely!! When you learn to tie your shoe laces you did it over and over until you got so good at it that you didn’t even think about it and now you just do it without thinking.
Imagine if you had a job where you had to do a presentation to a new group of people every week. If you weren’t so comfortable with public speaking, you might feel really nervous to begin with. But what about after a year of doing it every week, do you think you’d still feel as nervous? Chances are, you wouldn’t.
Why is meeting people or holding a conversation any different? Those who become good at first impressions, instead of pinning all their hopes on one person, one job, one interview, learned the ‘art of meeting people’ through meeting many different people. Each time they learn how to be even more relaxed, more confident and to be more themselves. Aiming to have fun, and to have the best time, rather than focussing on the pressure of whether there’ll be a next time.
1. Change the story
When I was meeting someone for the first time, I would get that butterfly feeling and when I was getting into the car I’d almost be kind of excited. I had spent time getting myself ready, listening to my favourite playlist and dressing up to go out. Then I’d start driving and I’d notice that feeling, the butterflies, the nerves. Sometimes it would get so intense that I would turn around and make excuses not to go. That soon became a problem for me because I was letting people down and letting myself down. I wasn’t giving them a chance to meet me. I wasn’t giving myself a chance to meet them and discover the possibilities of a new experience. I was so caught up in my head and in my feelings that I didn’t stop to consider that maybe they would be feeling nervous too. Maybe they were worried about meeting me! I used to wonder why would anyone be nervous about meeting me?
When I stopped on one occasion and considered the possibility that the other person may be thinking the same thing, that they might be just as nervous as I am, that’s when it started to get a little bit easier for me and I didn’t feel so alone. Realizing that it wasn’t just about me, and that maybe the other person and I were in the same boat, helped me to feel a little bit more confident about being able to connect with them. I also started to tell myself a different story about the ‘butterfly feeling’.
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Many of us have got a narrative going on in our head that describes our day or prepares us for different events or outcomes. Often times, it prepares us for the worst case scenario. What if they don’t like me? What if I am wearing the wrong clothes? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I sound stupid? All these things are part of the story that we tell ourselves. So I started to pay attention to what I was telling myself and how it would make me feel. I noticed that many of the things I was telling myself were not helping me to feel more confident or capable.
So I changed the way I talked to myself. I started telling myself that instead of the butterfly feeling being a bad feeling, that the feeling meant something was important to me. What if it is a good feeling? What if that was the sign that I was about to go and have some fun? What if I was about to have a new and exciting experience? Changing the stories we tell ourselves and the meanings that we give to things, can be the difference between a negative thought that brings you down, and a positive thought that empowers you and builds you up to be your best self, enabling you to really put your best foot forward and bring your whole self to the table.
2. Focus on the process and build on your successes
So, when I decided I needed to get better at meeting people, I started by saying to myself I was going to meet 100 new people, I’ve also met people who have gone on 100 first dates, and others who have gone on 100 interviews. Do you think you’d really feel that nervous or worried if, on your 20th date you’ve already been on nineteen first dates? Do you think you’d feel a little differently on the 1st first date vs the 50th first date? Do you think you’ll be more relaxed, a little bit more understanding, less nervous or less judgemental than you were on your first date? Absolutely, you are!!! You get better and better at being relaxed about the first impression.
After a few first dates, I started realising that there are some things that used to worry me, that don’t actually matter, or that I didn’t need to focus on. When I said the “wrong” thing, it didn’t matter. When there was an awkward silence, that was OK. Some dates didn’t last very long, sometimes 15 minutes. This was OK too because I was building up my experience and confidence. I started learning different ways to react and respond when something didn’t go to ‘plan’ or match the picture I had created of how things would go. I started getting better and more comfortable with chatting to all different types of people. And when I did something better than I did last time, when I felt less nervous, when I started having more fun, I started to really enjoy dating.
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
Now I don’t necessarily mean anyone needs to go meet 100 people exactly, but if you tell yourself you’re aiming to reach 100, then it’s less likely that you’ll give up after 5, if they were less than fun or didn’t have the ‘magic’ connection or easy banter. It gives you a goal to keep moving towards. The more people you meet, the more interviews you do, the more experiences you have with different people, the greater your chances to be able to relax and to be yourself when you meet someone great who you really connect with.
The people I know who are great at first impressions have been on a lot of ‘first dates’, whether that’s a job interview, meeting people for friendship for the first time or going on dates to find an intimate partner the principals are the same. They started out by going on first dates, not necessarily to get into relationships just to have the experience of getting over the nervousness or the uncertainty, but so they could enjoy meeting new people. Now they feel more confident meeting people and making first impressions.
What happens is that when you relax and you’re enjoying the process, it can be really fun and you can meet some amazing people (and people start coming up to meet you!). So many people I speak to who have done this, say that they have people approaching them a lot more than they used to, because they’ve become more open and receptive to meeting new people. They know they’ll have some great first impressions and there’s going to be some not so great ones, but a not so great first impression doesn’t mean that every time is going to be like that. All it means is that that one didn’t go so well and maybe you won’t catch up with that person again.
3. The power of preparation
Don’t underestimate the power of preparation. Make yourself feel great. Buy a new outfit or wear your favorite one that makes you feel comfortable, beautiful or powerful and confident. Listen to music that makes you feel relaxed, excited or fun. Get prepared before going out and meeting someone new, or going on that job interview. Whether it’s reading over your notes and practising your handshake, doing a workout or a guided meditation, soaking in the bath or getting your hair done. Whatever it is that makes you feel more comfortable and more at ease. It can be as simple as a cup of tea and a selfie! Whatever it is for you, take the time to prepare and then get out there!
The sooner you begin, the sooner you’ll improve, just like I did. In fact, I love getting prepared and making myself feel great for my first impressions. These days I actually look forward to going out and meeting new people, or holding conversations with people at work. Even on occasions where I’m going into meetings or situations where I’m unsure of the outcome, I still get excited and curious.
So get started, go out, get involved, and remember to have fun along the way!
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