In The Art of First Impressions, Part 1 of 2, we left off on how significant Comfort is in making a great first impression, both in the paralegal field and in every area of life. Let’s take a look at Comfort’s counterpart, Confidence.
This goes hand-in-hand with comfort. Being comfortable in your own skin means you are confident in who you are, and being confident in who you are means you will come across as comfortable with yourself. And confidence is so much more attractive when coupled with humility. BUT don’t go assuming you know what confidence is and that you are confident. There is a fine line to walk here, folks. True humility does not mean timidity or down-playing yourself. And true confidence does not mean carrying yourself like you are God’s gift to mankind. Take a moment to honestly self-assess your level of confidence AND how it comes across to others.
Shine by Comparison
Let me give you an example from theatre, from the many auditions I have watched. Picture this:
Person A walks to center stage hurriedly with her head slightly down, looks out at the directors and introduces herself somewhat diffidently, gives an awesome audition, says thank you, and quickly walks back offstage.
Person B walks onstage with her head tipped back, introduces herself with a tone so confident she might as well be saying "you can just end the auditions and hire me right now," does an awesome audition, then says "thank you" in a tone where she might as well have said "you’re welcome" and saunters off the stage.
Person C walks onstage with a normal and self-assured step, keeping her head up and making eye contact and smiling at the directors, stops on her mark, introduces herself like a real and pleasant person, does an awesome audition, makes eye-contact again with the directors saying a genuine "thank you" and walks offstage the same way they walked onstage.
The Person A probably thought she was being humble, but it came across as under-confidence. Person B probably thought she was simply showing confidence, but it came across as over-confidence. The true confidence, someone comfortable with themselves and not forcing confidence or humility, was portrayed by Person C. If each person gave an equally awesome audition, who would you be drawn to? If these same three people were in an interview for a paralegal position, who would you hire?
Comfort + Confidence = ?
I almost wrote a third C word: Connect. But I realized that would be redundant. When you meet and talk with someone who is extremely comfortable in their own skin, who is genuine and has a humble confidence, you automatically connect with them. It’s like that song, "When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you." When you’re comfortable with yourself, you in turn set people at ease and make them feel comfortable with themselves and with you. When you can have a conversation with a stranger and engage them as a real and genuine human being, people feel connected with you. They feel that they can be real with you. People will be drawn to you and they will respect you (and in turn, they will be drawn to and respect your workplace, your law firm, and anything else you are representing).
And that is the art of first impressions.
Create a life mission.
One quick idea in conclusion. At the end of my grad school experience, one of my professors made us each come up with and write down our life mission. It was such a difficult assignment. It’s not your goals for your career, not your personal ambitions.
But a life mission is deeper than that, it overarches both of those things and states the kind of person you want to be and the kind of impact you want to make on the world—the "why" behind everything you stand for and do. It takes a lot of thought to come up with one. Here’s mine, for an example: "To both strive for and infuse others with an insatiable pursuit of truth, an unashamed desire to live fully and authentically, and a love of all that is good and beautiful."
I have that written down on a piece of paper in my wallet, it’s with me wherever I go. And I assure you, the best auditions, interviews, and first impressions I’ve ever done/had/made, were the ones when I took a moment beforehand and read my life mission back to myself.
True confidence and comfort with yourself can be difficult to grasp in some settings, especially if the stakes are high, but if you take a moment to remember who you are, what you believe in, and why you do what you do, that confidence and comfort will be there. You won’t have to fake it or force it or put it on.
I encourage you to take some time to write your own life mission and remind yourself of it from time to time, especially as you’re going to interviews for paralegal positions or making important decisions to advance your legal career.
I promise you won’t regret it. Happy great first impression-making!