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Building Business Relationships – Part One: The First Impression

Photo of business woman shaking hands
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By TAPE CEO and President Louisa Long Jaffe.

Building any kind of relationship always starts at the beginning: the first impression. Before we even get in front of a person to make that first impression, however, it is very important to be comfortable in our own skin and with who we are.

We build the most successful relationships on authenticity. If we can’t boldly be our authentic selves, then we may seem to have something to hide. The quality of openness engenders a positive relationship.

The flipside of being comfortable in our own skin is to be truly and sincerely interested in learning as much as we can about the other person. What can we do to assist other people to express their authentic selves?

When we shake hands with someone and say, “I’m glad to meet you,” if we also look them in the eye and imagine that we are looking deeply into who they are as a person, then we will receive an impression of their true nature.

It is very important that this process be sincere. If we only affect an interest in another person, they will know that it is false interest.

With practice, we can genuinely develop more interest in hearing what other people have to say than in what we, ourselves, have to say. Listening to others frees us from being too focused on our own personal situations and troubles, from the inner dialogue that sometimes says, “Ain’t it awful!” Deficit-based thinking will never leave the best impression, so we strive to stay in a positive state of mind (asset-based thinking) whenever we are interacting with other people.

If we are open and receptive to listening and learning something about each new person we meet, they will respond in kind. The first impression we create will be that of someone who is authentic, a good listener, positive and interested in them. From there, we can continue to build a mutually beneficial relationship that improves over time.

I once heard a speech by a very wise colonel. He said that in defining for himself how to make a good impression, he decided to treat everyone he encountered not as if they were the general, but as if they were the general’s wife.

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