20 Things That Will Ruin Your First Impression

by Bill Lampton, Ph.D.

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

    As Roger Ailes, President of Fox news said in his terrific book You Are the Message--a book I recommend highly--"You are the message. The words themselves are meaningless unless the rest of you is in synchronization. The total you affects how others feel about you and respond to you."

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

    Here's an invitation: If you think of other annoying behaviors that mar first impressions, E-mail them to me, listing them as I did above. Title your E-mail EVERYTHING COUNTS. Here's the link: drbill@championshipcommunication.com

    Bill Lampton, Ph.D., Communication Consultant, Speech Coach, and Keynote Speaker, "Helping Corporations and Leaders Communicate Persuasively." Call Dr. Lampton: 678-316-4300 or visit his website: http://www.bizcommunicationguy.com

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