How to Make a Great First Impression as an Introvert

An introvert shakes hands with someone

You only get seven seconds to make a first impression. This pressure can feel daunting for anyone, but especially for introverts. Turns out, we “quiet ones” already have all the skills we need to impress people.

When I was in a sketch comedy troupe, we had special performances called industry nights for casting directors, agents, and managers. Admission to the show was free. (There were also free appetizers and wine to put these show business gatekeepers in a good mood.)

Industry nights allowed the performers to mingle and network with people who had the potential to help them in their careers.

These after-the-show performances looked like a fun after-party to an outsider, but a lot was riding on the cast to showcase their best selves. It felt as if your whole future depended on how well you presented yourself in a minimal amount of time.

Making an excellent first impression can be daunting for anyone, but it’s especially challenging for an introvert like me. Research shows that you only get about seven seconds to do so. Seven seconds?! I felt this seemed impossible.

The Importance of Making a Good First Impression

You probably know that we introverts like to take our time getting to know someone before we feel comfortable revealing much about ourselves — and we certainly don’t do well when under a time crunch. Plus, not to mention talking to new people

At industry nights, I knew making a good first impression was important, but I’d still get overwhelmed and nervous.

After all, in the back of my overthinking brain, I thought a poor first impression could destroy a potential career opportunity for me or start things off in a negative light. There’s often no chance of a do-over, and it’s practically impossible to reverse a negative initial assessment. 

The good news is, while introverts may not think making excellent first impressions is in their wheelhouse, we do have all the skills we need to impress people we’re meeting for the first time. Here’s how.

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7 Ways to Make a Great First Impression as an Introvert

1. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your inner voice.

Introverts are known for deep work and being super focused. So, use that energy to change that negative voice in your head. You know, the one that gets in your way and makes you doubt yourself.

If you go to an event or interview convinced that you’re not going to make a good first impression, then you probably won’t. It’s in your best interest to rewrite your inner monologue to one that supports you and is your own cheerleader. In psychology-speak, this is known as reframing your thoughts.

Instead of focusing on all the ways you could fail, think about all the ways you could succeed. (Since introverts like to write, I suggest making a list of all the potential successes as though they are true: “I made a new friend/business contact.” Or, “I got the job!” And so on.)

Another way to change the tape that’s on repeat in your mind is to create some positive affirmations. At first, it may feel awkward to tell yourself things like, “People like me” or “I feel comfortable meeting new people,” but the more you say it to yourself, the more you’ll believe it. Your self-critical inner voice will have a hard time being heard with all the love and support you’re showing yourself.

2. Play detective and do some research.

Let’s say you’re attending an industry party, and you won’t know many of the guests. First, look at your host’s social media. What kinds of things are they sharing? Is there a website for their business? If they don’t have much of a social media presence, ask around — maybe a friend of yours knows them and can fill you in.

For a job interview, think about what topics will likely come up. Do a deep dive and find subjects where your interests and their interests align — LinkedIn is helpful for this. Maybe you have some mutual connections. Or perhaps you both volunteered for the same organization in college. Or maybe you even attended the same college. 

As you know, introverts aren’t fans of small talk, so if you have some engaging subjects for conversation ready to go, you’ll feel more comfortable. That way, you can steer the conversation to something that holds your attention — and theirs.  

Remember,  conversation involves give and take. If the other person doesn’t respond enthusiastically to one topic, let it go and move on to the next. Don’t take it personally and withdraw because you think they don’t like you. (By the way, I know it’s hard not to take things personally, but practice does make perfect!)

3. Visualize the upcoming scenario with a positive lens.

You’ve rewritten the negative voice in your head and now it’s time to fill in the details about how things will go right. This visualization is a form of meditation: Picture yourself relaxed, confident, and present. You’re smiling, but not feeling forced to smile. You add to the conversation without interrupting or stepping on other people’s jokes or stories.

Think of the things you’d like to happen, but don’t make a rigid plan or do anything you’ll feel forced or pressured to follow. All you’re doing is having some back-up behavior that you can turn to if you’re feeling adrift — think of it as a mental safety net.

When you have an idea of what you want to say, but you’re not locked into it, it allows you space to be in the moment and improvise. This practice may sound hard, but with your mental notes prepared, it’ll be easier than you think.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

4. Know that it’s more than enough to be yourself.

Introverts are authentic. Making a good first impression isn’t about fooling people or hiding any perceived flaws — it’s about expressing your genuine you-ness without being phony or fake

Being you is the simplest course of action and the least stressful. Trust that you have interesting things to say and are a welcome addition to any company, group, or gathering.

By being honest, you won’t have to keep up the pretense of being someone you’re not or have to keep track of any exaggerated truths you may tell, which will only add to your stress. (And if you did your LinkedIn homework, or got some info on the people you’re meeting with, there will be some kind of connection you’ll be able to make.) 

5. Look people in the eye, but don’t fixate on their faces.

If you keep your eyes down or look every which way except at the person you’re talking to, it may appear as though you’re hiding something or uninterested in what they’re saying. 

Remember, as you’re looking at someone, they’re also looking at you, so try to appear interested (even if you may not be interested initially). If you feel uncomfortable or lost, be receptive to the social cues the other person is giving you. Don’t replicate their cues exactly, but do be sensitive to what they’re telling you physically, through their body language, and not just verbally, through their words.

Don’t forget to show them some empathy, as they may be feeling anxious or awkward, too, and would probably appreciate it if you made things easier for them. Who knows? They could be an introvert, like you, and feel relieved that you’re doing all you can to make them comfortable.

6. Use your excellent powers of observation.

If you start to feel tongue-tied, look around the room or at the person you’re speaking with. People give clues about themselves, and you’re at an advantage as someone who notices almost everything. 

Without appearing distracted or bored, what have you noticed? Is the person passionate about their kids or grandkids? Do they have several pickleball trophies on their desk? Are they an avid traveler, with several framed photos of themselves in seemingly exotic places?

Most people love to talk about themselves, especially if someone asks about what fascinates them or what they’re passionate about. So take note, and ask away. (This is a great way to make conversation, especially if you get stuck.)

7. Use your incredible listening skills.

Introverts always have what they need to make a fantastic first impression — and your listening skills are off the charts, so use them. Don’t get all up in your head judging yourself on how well you’re doing. Listen, add to the conversation when it’s natural to do so, and relax. (You can also try out these grounding exercises if need be.) 

As an introvert, you’re able to really hear what someone is saying and can respond intelligently and mindfully.

By using your introvert skills and letting your personality shine through, you’ll be sure to make a great first impression — and one that’s so good, it might even surprise you.

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