How To Make An Unforgettable First Impression

Imagine, you’ve just met someone new . . .

Maybe a woman at a bar.  Maybe a senior VP at a networking event.

Conversation rolls for the first few minutes.  But then a familiar roadblock: you both feel like you’re running out of things to say.  So you implement a tactic you’ve heard before:

To be interesting, be interested.  Get them talking about themselves.

You unleash your probing questions.

Good, incisive questions.  They’re clever and you are obviously listening to the other person’s answers.  But as time ticks on, you sense they want to speak less and less.  After a few minutes, they excuse themselves to mingle with others.  Or to go to the bathroom (riiiiight).

What the heck happened?  Isn’t showing a genuine interest in people supposed to be a conversational cure-all?

Not exactly.

Because the conventional wisdom of: “get them talking about themselves” is incomplete.  Sure, people like to talk about themselves.  But not with everyone.

People only want to talk about themselves with people they have some reason to care about. 

It’s not perfectly nice, but it’s the truth.  When people we don’t know or respect barrage us with questions, we often just want them to scram.  And that phenomenon is especially pronounced in locations where there are lots of other people to meet (like networking events and bars).

So what should I do to have a good conversation if not ask questions?

Start with this principle:

People admire, respect, and want to talk to those with non-judgmental conviction in their own values.  

If ALL you do is ask questions, you’re not showing any conviction in your values.  You’re not even showing your values.   But if you make statements about your values or follow your questions up with those kinds of statements, it is a whole ‘nother ballgame.

Take the example of the senior VP at the networking event.  Say you’ve gotten on the conversation of his interests:

Him:  “Yeah my family and I took a trip out west to go skiing last week.  It was fantastic.”

You:  “Oh wow, had you been out there before?”

Him:  “Yeah we try to go every year.  The kids love it.”

You:  “What was the best part?”

Him:  “I guess this one trail that is like 45 minutes long, it had beautiful views throughout.”

You:  “Wow sounds great.  Where would you like to go next?”

Him:  “I’m thinking Utah.  I hear they have great powder . . . excuse me, I’m going to grab a drink . ..”

All questions.  Good ones too.  But people WILL tire eventually.

Contrast that with the following:

Him:  “Yeah my family and I took a trip out west to go skiing last week.  It was fantastic.”

You:  “That sounds amazing.  I’m not much of a skier, but I love to mountain bike.  There is nothing like that heightened awareness you get when you’re flying down the side of a mountain.  I’m an addict for all things that do that.”

Him:  “Me too . . .”

Now you’ve shown something about yourself.  And it doesn’t matter that you’ve never skied or that he’s never mountain biked.  It doesn’t matter if you love those sports for totally different reasons.  Because when you cut through the surface level facts of what you’re talking about, there are always deeper values.  A love of adventure, of pushing boundaries, of escaping the mundane.  You demonstrated those values when explaining WHY you love mountain biking.  And every human being can relate somehow to them.

So when meeting new people.  Don’t just barrage them with questions.  Don’t simply establish what they do or what they love.

Relate to them.  Take the information you get in the first questions and use it as an opportunity to reveal something about yourself.

Don’t worry if what you have to say doesn’t totally agree with their statement.  You can even have opposite feelings.  You can say that you’re not an adrenaline junkie at all – that unwinding for you is more about getting sucked into a good book (Game of Thrones, cough cough).  As long as you are revealing your values in a non-judgmental way, you’ll have lots to talk about and no one will be offended.  They will probably even respect you for the courage it took to show how you are different.

More important than agreeing with everything is revealing the things that are important to you.  In showing conviction in those feelings and beliefs.  That builds respect, maintains interest, and encourages them to share the things that are important to them.

How to incorporate this into your own life

First, get clear on your values . . .

Right now, take a minute to think through or write down

What is important to you?  What is life about?  What do you love to do and why?  What do you hate and why?

This should give solid insight into your own values.

Now ask yourself, how do your decisions reflect those values?  Did you quit your job because you love autonomy?  Did you move back to your hometown because you believe in family first?  Identify the manifestations of your values so you can share them with other people.

Then, the next time you find yourself in conversation asking more than 2-3 consecutive questions, slow down.  Remember, the goal of conversation is not simply to get someone talking about themselves.  It is to relate to one another’s values.

So listen to their answers and see what values they are revealing.  Do they love their work?  Do they have a passion for sports?

Then reveal something related about your own values.  The work you’ve done in listing them out will help here.

If they love their work, tell them about how you left your last job because you weren’t making the impact you wanted.  And then how you spent 6 months searching for your dream job

If they care about sports, share your truth.  I personally don’t care to watch professional sports, but love to play on the beach.  The best part of my day every day is when I toss the football with the Brazilian kids who have never seen one.

The point should be clear:

A good conversation is not about just getting someone to open up and talk about themselves.

It is not about you agreeing with everything they say.

It is not even about you connecting on things that you have in common.

It is about comparing, contrasting, and relating to one another’s values.  Find opportunities to share yours with conviction and without judgment.  Other people will follow suit and you’ll make connections like never before.


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19 thoughts on “How To Make An Unforgettable First Impression

  1. Great post. It may seem counterintuitive to some, but DISAGREEING with someone you just met (respectfully of course) can often lead to more interesting conversations, and stronger connections.

    1. Totally agree, Zach. You pre-empted my next post (all about how people try to make themselves agreeable to those in positions of power instead of owning the ways in which they differ)

  2. Sos un genio! Impresionante todos tus análisis y la pasión que le pones a lo que haces. Fue muy bueno encontrar tu canal en youtube! Capo Charlieee!

  3. After reading this I can see that the more successful conversations I’ve had when meeting people recently have been much more enjoyable because I was doing this (completely by accident!). Thanks for the insight. Now I can make this a concious choice!

  4. My college is just starting from tomorrow, and i was thinking about how I can make a better first impression! This article helped a lot. It seems that I do this subconsciously and that’s why conversations stay long and interesting! Will try to do this even smoothly now! Thank you so much

  5. Great article. Sometimes I chat with people who’ve travelled much more than me and it can awkward to sense that you’re somehow not as interesting like that. I guess the key is to mention the positive that gradually explains who and what you are. Everybody differs one way or another! I emigrated from the UK to New Zealand with my family which many friends would never do!

  6. Hey Charlie Im looking to get hooked on your channel I personally really enjoy and learnt alot from ur content. However, my one problem is finding the right order in which to learn it all because by just watching random videos Im getting some small ideas but I need to know how to put it all together. Is there a logical sequence in which I can watch your videos to help me understand the bigger picture?

  7. Hey Charlie,

    I just wanted to thank you for doing all of this, it has helped me so much and my confidence game has gone through the roof. It’s like you’re teaching us ways to get ahead in life.


  8. I did a random search for presentation pointers about a week ago, and happened to watch one of your videos. I’ve been hooked on your channel ever since! Thank you so much for all of this; it’s helping me a lot already!

  9. Just a European opinion on this. I travelled the world and met lots of people from all kinds of places. I have to say, I often found conversation with many Americans to be a bit dull. I had the feeling many (not all of course) would never truly listen. They would just wait until I finished talking and then say something random that came to their minds.
    This way I felt it wasn’t a true conversation which is going somewhere, but rather a random exchange of hardly related anectodes. I would have wished some of them to ask more questions.
    I talked about this with other people from around the world and lots made same experiences.
    Cheers 🙂

  10. WHY did I read this article despite being someone, at 20 years of age was able to make a killer first impression at a recent networking event in Hyderabad attended by corporate big guns by talking about digitalization and education when audience were allowed to voice their opinions after a speech and left people stunned when they came to know that I only had my college id card but not a business card to exchange with them, when they approached me….. ?

    Because I am someone who wants to write a book, “The Art of Learning” at some stage of my life. A blank slate receives more and the best way to learn is by assuming that you don’t know anything and not allow ego to come in the way of learning what you want to learn further.

    Mr. Charlie, no doubt you are the Dale Carnegie of the 21st century and what you are doing is genuinely noble. But my doubt is this- as more and more people consume your content in this digital age, won’t they become resistant to the tips and tricks you teach? I mean if I were to use your tricks on someone who has become resistant to them……

  11. I had this problem while talking to the parents of the girl I like last week, I dropped her at home from an event and she invited me in to see her dog.I came in, saw her parents, shook hands and we got to talking. We chatted really well but we had about 4 awkward silences where either her mother or I picked up the conversation, I decided to go home after I realized I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I really could have used this article back then.

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