First Impressions: What kind of business language do you speak? Surprisingly, it may have nothing to do with words.

In the business world, whether it is a sole proprietorship or a large company that employs many, first impressions speak volumes. One might think that your opening words or comments are the first impression, but it starts long before you open your mouth.

First impressions start when there is distance between you and your customers, contractors and vendors. It is all about what is seen first – the approach, appearance, punctuality, preparedness and greeting.

A great time and opportunity used to assess a person, either knowingly or unknowingly, is to watch him or her approach. We observe the pace of the stride, the degree of hurriedness and how they carry themselves. Do you find yourself scurrying around all the time like a mad person? Do you slouch a bit when you aren’t paying attention? Do you hold your head up or keep it down? Does your vehicle dash resemble a garbage can or is it as cluttered as your desk?

Another level that is automatically assessed is our appearance. People will check to see if your clothes are clean and pressed, if your hair is kept neatly or your nails are cared for. There are a couple key rules that all business people must adhere to and when they don’t, the language they speak is not impressive or conducive to business. Do you make sure there is a crease in your pants (even if they are jeans)? Is your shirt tucked in and neat (or freshly changed if needed)? Is your attire one step up from your client or customer?

When the proximity is short and face to face happens, the measurement of first impressions continue because people pay attention to punctuality, readiness and greeting. Easy measures at this level include asking yourself how often you apologize for being late. Do you look prepared to work or have you forgotten your pen, some paper or a business card? Is your handshake and greeting appropriate or over the top because you are still feeling rushed or late? Is this the right time for a “fist-bump” or a “high-five”, seriously?

Last but certainly not least is the language of smell. You got it – the nose is a very sensitive and accurate assessment. Did you just have a quick cigarette before meeting this person? Have you worked up a sweat today and might need to freshen up a little? Is the mist on your cologne or perfume too generous? Did you just apply your new mango, lemon and cinnamon lotion that smells . . . confused?

These are just a few examples of the different languages we use to make first impressions. We can call this etiquette, we can call this common sense or we can call this new learning but what it really means is that we say a lot to people about ourselves long before the hand shake.

Since we all come from different sectors, communities and business industries, it is difficult to prescribe one perfect language that will fit and work for everyone. One commonality that is possible for every business person is to ensure that you speak a clear and confident message of ability and capability. If clients, customers, contractors and vendors see that you take care of yourself, your vehicle, your time and your looks, they will get the first impression that “I can trust this person to take care of me because I see how they take care of themselves and their business”.

Take a few minutes to see what others see or observe around you for feedback. Once you know your strengths and challenges, then you can hone your language so that first impressions work toward confidence and more business.

If your leadership team and staff could beef up their first impressions and build a better language, contact us at or 604-349-8660. There is nothing better than having great looking employees that create an atmosphere of confidence and “can do” attitudes. If it’s the leadership that needs some attention check out our Building Better Bosses Program.

This entry was posted by Pam Paquet and is filed under Business Assertiveness, Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.