20 Things That Will Ruin Your First Impression

You can have the best looking suit, a great smile, and a smooth and flawless presentation, but one small mistake can kill your credibility. Here are 20 things you should watch for when trying to make a good first impression.

Waiting at the baggage carousel at Logan International Airport in Boston, I noticed a young man walking by. Right away, he impressed me very positively.

  Confident and pleasant facial expression

  Posture that added to his “I’m in command” appearance

  A first-class business suit that boosted his professionalism

  His brisk stride made him appear energetic

  He was physically fit, even athletic looking

Then suddenly, in less than two seconds, my opinion changed. Why? He blew a bubble with his gum, and popped it. Suddenly, he was no longer the accomplished, sophisticated business man who had grabbed my attention. One simple flaw tarnished his image. He dropped from leader to another face in the crowd, just that quickly.

The incident reinforced a major communication principle: Everything we do, say, or look like either adds to or detracts from our first impression.

To score well during that all-important first encounter, realize that every detail counts. You’re not being frivolous or vain when you check yourself in the mirror and mentally rehearse the major points you will talk about.

Beware of these 20 destructive behaviors:

  • Interrupting repeatedly
  • Dominating the conversation
  • Inconsistent eye contact
  • Standing too close, invading “personal space”
  • Taking a cell phone call or even letting it ring
  • Chewing anything, unless you’re at a luncheon
  • Arriving late
  • Being longwinded
  • Risky humor
  • Wrinkled clothing
  • Checking your watch frequently


    • Not listening, missing key points
    • Poor table manners
    • Boasting (I call it “I” disease)
    • Looking and sounding bored
    • Complaining about anything
    • Distracting noises, such as tapping on a table
    • Notebook or briefcase needing replacement
    • Power Point that won’t work
    • Cluttered office when someone visits you

    Recall Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear a word you say.”

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