You just parked your car. You look at the clock and see that you have five minutes to spare.
You figure you might as well use this extra time to do a little mental preparation. So you close your eyes and you begin to say yourself:
“I got this… I got this… I. GOT. THIS.”
But then, a teeny tiny thought creeps into your mind…
“… What if I don’t got this?”
And just like that, the tide begins to turn.
Your breath shortens…
Your heart starts pounding…
You get a weird feeling in your stomach…
And all of a sudden, your mind is now racing at a million miles per hour, coming up with what-ifs:
“What if I say something stupid? What if they don’t like me? What if they ask me a question and I don’t know how to respond? What if they don’t show up? Wait… did I read the email correctly? Am I even at the right place?!”
You look back at your watch…
“OH NO, I’M GONNA BE LATE.”
Whether you’re going into an interview or you’re going on a first date, meeting someone for the first time can be an extremely nerve-wracking experience.
The irony is that the reason why you get so nervous before meeting someone for the first time is because you want to make a good first impression. After all, we all know how important first impressions are–a first impression can either make you or break you.
And yet, more often than not, the harder you try to make a good first impression, the more likely you are to end up making a bad first impression.
You start stumbling over your words…
You start saying the most ridiculous things you would normally never say…
Or, even worse, your mind goes completely blank and you don’t say anything at all…
All of this, of course, only makes you even more nervous and more self-conscious. It’s a self-perpetuating downward spiral.
If this happens to you more often than you’d like to admit, I have good news…
It doesn’t have to be this way.
You don’t have to have a mini (or massive) panic attack every single time you’re getting ready to meet someone for the first time.
Here are 7 ways to make sure you stay calm, cool, and confident anytime you’re meeting someone new… No matter how shy or introverted you might be.
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1. Completely detach your self-worth from the outcome of the meeting.
Get comfortable with the idea of a rejection from the person you’re meeting with and make a conscious decision beforehand that you don’t need to “win” them over.
Sure, you may really want to get this job that you’re interviewing for. Or you may really want to be in a relationship with this girl that you’re grabbing a coffee with. But you don’t need it…
You’ll be okay if it doesn’t work out.
And the trick is that feeling this way is simply a decision that you make. It’s up to you to decide whether you believe it or not.
If it helps, think about it this way… there are over 7 billion people in the world. I don’t care who you’re meeting with, to say that there are a lot of other fish in the sea is a gigantic understatement.
Go ahead and do your best to prepare and put your best foot forward (more on this in just a second), but always remember… No matter what happens, you’ll be okay.
Not only will this relieve a lot of pressure on your end, but it will also actually make you a much more attractive person… People can immediately sense when someone is needy, and trust me, it’s a HUGE turn off.
2. Remember: this is a two-way street.
This means that, number one, the other person you’re meeting with is probably just as nervous as you.
And number two, while they may be evaluating you, you should also be evaluating them.
This isn’t just about them choosing you, it’s also about YOU choosing THEM.
Which is why anytime you’re meeting someone new, you should make it your goal to get to know them as best as you possibly can. You should be asking yourself…
- What do they value?
- What motivates them?
- What kind of character do they have?
- How do they spend their free-time?
Then, let your answers to these questions help you determine your answer to the most important question:
Is this the type of person YOU want to be a part of your life?
And yes, this even applies to job interviews. In fact, it especially applies to job interviews…
If you get a job offer but you really disliked the person who interviewed you, and you’re expected to spend 8+ hours per day with this person, five days a week… you should probably think very carefully about whether or not you decide to accept that offer.
3. Do your research on the person beforehand.
If you know who you’re meeting with beforehand, take advantage of that and do some research on them. You can usually find out a lot about a person with just a quick Google search.
Go ahead and do a little bit of Facebook or LinkedIn “stalking.” Check out their personal website, if they have one.
(Just to be clear, it’s not really stalking… Anything that someone posts on their public social media profiles should be considered just that–public. These days, I go into meetings expecting that the other person has most likely looked me up and seen all of my social media profiles.)
As you skim through their profiles, make note of and write down any common interests, interesting topics, or questions you’d like to discuss with them.
Save this list on your phone or on a notecard and hold onto it as a backup plan. In case the conversation ever comes to a lull, you’ll now have a handful of discussion points to fall back on at any time. This should give you an extra boost of confidence.
And if the conversation ever does come to a lull, don’t be afraid to say, “By the way, I was browsing [insert social media platform] when I came across your profile and saw that you shared an article from Tim Ferriss… I LOVE Tim Ferriss!”
It’s not creepy if you bring it up in a non-creepy way.
4. Practice visualization (this is more than just “thinking happy thoughts”).
There’s a reason why pretty much all professional athletes talk so much about the power of visualization… because it works.
You can apply visualization to anything, but I’ve found it to be especially helpful before going into high-pressure social interactions.
In case you’re unfamiliar with visualization, basically, the point is to envision what you want to create from the exchange with the other person. So rather than just telling yourself to “think positive,” you will close your eyes and ask yourself…
What is the feeling or experience that you want the other person to have?
Then, you’ll dive deep into the details of what it you want it to feel like, drawing on past positive experiences as much as possible. You’ll visualize the entire process, from beginning to end, with a focus only on positive outcomes:
- Envision yourself being fully present and attentive.
- Envision yourself speaking calmly, yet confidently.
- Envision yourself feeling a strong energy and connection to the other person.
The reason why this is so effective is because, as Michael Phelps’ coach says:
“The brain cannot distinguish between something that’s vividly imagined and something that’s real.” – Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps’ coach
If you spend 5 minutes doing this type of mental rehearsal the night before, the morning of, and right before your meeting, I guarantee you will go into it feeling like a CHAMPION.
5. Remember: you don’t look as nervous as you feel.
A friend once asked me, “How can I avoid looking nervous?”
Here’s what I told him…
Although you may be giving off some signs of nervousness, chances are you don’t look nearly as nervous as you feel.
Why? Because only you know what going on inside your head and only you can feel the symptoms of your nervousness.
The other person can only perceive what they see and hear. Plus, as I mentioned before, they’re probably dealing with their own feelings of nervousness, too.
So if you start stumbling over your words, or your mind suddenly goes blank, just stop, take a deep breath, and start again. No harm, no foul. No one’s going to notice.
6. Take deeper, slower breaths.
When you get nervous, your body tenses up and your breath shortens. You’re probably already aware of this, however, what you may not be aware of is that this phenomenon goes both ways.
Just as your emotional state changes your physiology, your physiology can also change your emotional state. In other words…
If you force yourself to take deep, slow breaths while you’re feeling nervous, suddenly you will start to feel a lot less nervous and a lot more relaxed.
Here’s an easy to remember mantra that you may want to repeat to yourself as you focus on slowing down your breath when you’re feeling nervous:
Breathe in strength and confidence, breathe out stress and anxiety.
I’d recommend taking at least three deep breaths while repeating this mantra immediately before your meeting, but then also continuing to come back to it during the meeting to make sure you’re staying calm and relaxed throughout.
7. Let the other person do most of the talking (especially in the beginning).
Okay, so this tip is more geared towards what to do during the actual meeting. However, simply knowing that you don’t have to be the one doing all the talking right from the get-go should help relieve a lot of the pressure going into it.
In the beginning, you should just focus on listening to the other person and asking good follow-up questions.
On top of relieving a lot of pressure on your end, this will also make the other person love you. Why? Because people are ego-centric and LOVE to talk about themselves.
When you focus conversations on the other person and ask them questions that gets them talking about themselves, it makes them feel good. And when you make someone feel good, they will naturally (and subconsciously) start to like you.
At some point (if they’re a good conversationalist), they’ll probably try to turn the conversation around and begin asking you some questions in return. When that happens, go ahead and talk about yourself.
Hopefully you’ll already be warmed up by then, but I’d still recommend that you err on the side of talking less than the other person.
If they want to hear more, let them be the one to ask additional follow-up questions.
Last, but certainly not least…
Know that it’s okay to feel anxious.
The worst thing you can do is get anxious about your anxiety. As soon as you start wondering things like…
- “What the hell is wrong with me?”
- “Why do I feel like this?”
- “Why am I so awkward?”
STOP YOURSELF. You don’t want to go down that rabbit hole.
Here’s what you need to realize:
The biggest problem people have is never the anxiety itself, but their desire to get rid of the anxiety.
The truth is, we ALL get anxiety. Sure, some of us get it worse than others, but it affects every single one of us. The question is, how do you let it affect you?
The key to overcoming anxiety is not to completely eliminate it, but simply to not allow it to affect you negatively.
Instead of trying to get rid of your anxiety, your goal should be to learn to accept it, embrace it, and continue doing all the things you want to do–not despite anxiety, but in the face of anxiety.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” ― Vivian Greene
Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re going to meet someone new, and let me know how it goes!
YOU GOT THIS.