Everyone suffers their fair share of awkward interactions from time to time, whether you forget a former acquaintance’s name when you run into them or find yourself blanking on all the pertinent details about your work history mid-interview. And while the odd faux pas can be forgiven, according to etiquette experts, there’s one major mistake that always makes a bad first impression: oversharing.
“When you’re trying to make connections, whether in a business or social interaction, first impressions count,” says Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of etiquette school Beyond Etiquette.
While it may be tempting to provide a plethora of information about yourself to help your new acquaintance get to know you better, doing so can actually be a hinderance to your relationship.
“It’s not only about introducing yourself, but it’s also an opportunity to get to know the other person,” Tsai says. “You wouldn’t want them to walk away from the conversation feeling that it was a one-sided conversation and they didn’t get to speak.”
1. Giving a weak handshake
You don’t want to crush anyone’s bones with your vice-like grip, but a weak handshake doesn’t inspire confidence in the person you’re meeting either.
“A weak or limp ‘dead fish’ grip makes you appear cold and disinterested, whereas a firm handshake conveys confidence,” says Tsai. However, Tsai notes that you shouldn’t clasp the other person’s hand with both hands, either. “These actions express dominance,” she explains. And if you want to avoid putting your foot in your mouth.
2. Not dressing the part
You may be used to wearing pajamas practically every day since quarantine began, but failing to dress to impress is still a major first introduction faux pas, even in the COVID era.
Tsai says that your clothing is typically the first thing people notice about you when you enter a room, virtual or not. That means you should always err on the side of caution when it comes to your apparel. “You shouldn’t be wearing flip-flops and a t-shirt, especially if you want to convey that you are a professional,” says Tsai.
3. Talking trash
Everyone’s had a bad boss they’d love to share a story or two about, but doing so when you first meet someone only reflects badly on you.
Tsai says trash talking is guaranteed to backfire “because it comes off as rude and you never know if the person is personally connected to the people you’re speaking about.”
4. Name dropping
Having connections can definitely get you places. That said, trying to ingratiate yourself with others by mentioning those connections may do more harm than good.
“It undercuts any confidence you’re projecting, since you are trying to sell yourself as an individual rather than promote someone else,” explains Tsai. Want to avoid an embarrassing situation?