(spoiler: it doesn’t start when you meet in-person)

The most comprehensive guide to making a lasting impression on a guy

So you want to make a great first impression on a guy. You have googled this, read books about it, asked your friends and family, and maybe even have some experience in this. As you read this, you may already have a specific guy in mind you’re secretly interested in, or not yet but you just want to be ready before he shows up in your life. While the principles for making a lasting impression remain the same, it’s important to remember that not every guy will notice the same things. This is why general advice about what to wear or what to smell like, may work for Joe, but not for Jon. And Aunt May’s advice on what attracted Uncle Ray to her worked only for Aunt May. Now that you get the picture, let’s get started for what will work for you.

Here’s the most important takeaway from this conversation: making a positive first impression on a guy is like landing your dream job. Every job is different, not all jobs are right for you, and not every job will be your dream job. Let’s break this down a little more.

Let’s start with the important, foundational stuff

  1. Know yourself

When you’re looking for a job, you first take some time to reflect on your education, skills, experience, expertise, strengths, weaknesses, and so on. You list all these things on a piece of paper that eventually becomes your resume. Your resume becomes a very important tool that serves many purposes – it’s your communication tool that you use to apply for jobs that interest you, your marketing tool that allows potential employers to notice you, and your constant reminder of what you bring to the table as far as your livelihood goes. 

Finding a potential mate should begin with a similar process. You first need to take some time to reflect on what you value in a relationship based on whom you are, what you value, what you’ve learned from your past experiences, your existing or past relationships, your interests, and so on. We’re all unique as humans, so your “list” will be different from someone else’s, which is why general advice is what it is – general. You’re far from “general”. You’re unique! So let’s make a list that is unique to you, and make sure you find a guy who’s unique, tailor-made for you.

Your soul-searching journey may not happen in one sitting. Mine certainly didn’t. This is because we are all constantly growing in our understanding of ourselves based on our personal experiences, life stage and relationships. In my early 20s, I was adventurous. My objective in life at that time was to explore as many new places in the world as possible, and take in as many new experiences as life took me. I was attracted to adventurous men who valued exploring new places, trying new things, and taking new risks. When I reached my 30s, my values shifted. I was more ready to settle, take fewer risks, and I valued stability. Accordingly, I valued different things in a relationship – like consistency, reliability and strength in a man. What do you value in a man, at this stage of your life? 

Let’s get back to the job example. I think we all know what happens when we work in a job that is not aligned with our values, does not allow us to use our strengths, or does not keep us interested. Our motivation at work wanes, we become bored and distracted, and we lose our creativity. We become resigned to the fact that we’re just working for the money. 

You get the picture. You want to make a great impression on the right guy – not just any guy. And the first step is to know what you’re looking for in a relationship. Use this quiz to discover more about yourself and what you’re looking for in a relationship.

  1. Know your biggest asset

Now that you know what you value in a relationship, ask yourself what is your biggest asset in your relationships? What draws others to you? What makes your relationships successful? These relationships don’t have to be romantic ones – they can be any relationship you currently have, like your relationship with your friends, your family members, even your pet! What do you bring to your relationship that others value about you? It could be your intellect, your objectivity, your kindness, your warmth, your honesty, your contagious joy, your ability to bring calm, your vast knowledge of topics, or a combination of these things. The best way to find out what your biggest asset is that you bring to your relationships is to ask those you are in relationship with. Ask your colleagues, your best friend, your mom, your dad, your siblings, your cousin. What do they enjoy most about your company? If you moved away to another country, what are the top 3 things they would miss about you? Use this quiz to discover what your biggest asset is that you bring to your relationships.

  1. Know your kinda guy

Here’s the fun part: understanding what kind of guy you are interested in. 

In the first two steps, you have determined what you are looking for in a long-lasting relationship, and the best things you bring to the relationship. For example, by taking the quizzes linked to this conversation, you may have discovered that you value a romantic relationship that is stable and consistent, with not too many surprises. You may be someone who prefers to plan ahead and always be on top of what your next move is. This will help you understand the kind of guy you’re looking to invest time in impressing. Alternatively, you may discover that you are someone who thrives on change, love to do something different everyday, and are alright with uncertainty. In that case, you may be looking for a special someone who is unpredictable, adventurous, and always trying new things. The point is, because each one of us is unique, we are looking for different things in a lifelong relationship, and therefore, we are drawn to different types of guys. And because the type of guy we end up in a relationship with is himself a unique person, you need to understand what would make you form a good first impression on him. Got it? 

In other words, once you know what kind of guy you are interested in based on what you value in a relationship, you can now figure out how to make a lasting impression on him. Your strategy, by the way, might be different depending on the environment in which you get to interact with this fellow. If you don’t have someone in mind yet whom you’re trying to attract, you will need to brainstorm the types of places where you can find the kind of guy you’re interested to meet. For this conversation, let’s assume you already have someone in mind you’re trying to make an impression on, and he’s the type of guy you know you’d be interested to have a romantic relationship with.

  1. Know the environment for your interaction

It is important to better understand the environment in which you will be interacting with him because that will influence your strategy to be noticed and make a lasting, positive impression. What is the environment where you have the opportunity to interact with your person of interest like? Is it a workplace you share? Is it a place where you will only bump into him occasionally or by chance, like a grocery store, local park or apartment building? Is it a singles or speed dating event? Or is it an organized environment where you get to meet your special someone periodically, like at church or a hobby club? Is he a friend of a friend, or perhaps someone who caught your eye on social media?

No matter what the environment is, the key to getting noticed is to create opportunities to get noticed. Obviously, it’s easier to start a conversation when it’s a shared environment, such as a workplace, your apartment building, place of worship or hobby club. It’s even easier to initiate a conversation when everyone is gathered for a common purpose, such as a singles mingle or social networking event because the unspoken intent is you are all there to meet new people. Where it gets harder to initiate a conversation is when the person is a complete stranger you bump into at the local grocery store or a park. (Side note: you are taking on a bigger risk getting noticed by a complete stranger in such an environment because you have no idea what he is like, and whether he may already have a significant other. It’s not impossible – I had a friend who bumped into a jogger almost every morning and eventually decided to strike up a conversation. They are now happily married! So it’s possible, but you would be taking on a greater risk of rejection). 

Now that we have sorted out the important foundational stuff, you’re ready to talk about the actual interaction with your person of interest. What you should say to make a lasting impression is only one piece of the puzzle. How you should show up is just as important because in general, men are visual creatures. That really shouldn’t surprise you because in most cases and for most people, that is usually the first sense we use to interact with our environment – i.e. the sense of sight.

  1. Your physical appearance

This is about the stuff he sees about you on the outside. Put your best foot forward by considering the clothes you’re wearing, how you style your hair, how much makeup you have on, your shoes, the way you walk, the way you carry yourself, your smile, and so on. What you wear can communicate a strong message about your personality, character, interests, and style. It can date you, revive you, rescue you, and even transform you! Yes, one should never judge a book by its cover, but the reality is, people do form first impressions based on what they see. Whatever your choice of clothes, consider your 101 of the kind of guy who turns you on. Is he sporty? Adventurous? Risk-taking? Conservative? Business-like? Trendy? What kind of girl would such a guy be drawn to? As a reminder, if you have taken the time to consider what you value in a relationship, you would naturally discover the type of guy you’d be attracted to, and accordingly, you would be the type of person he would also find attractive. In other words, you will generally be a reflection of the kind of guy you are interested in. This means that you really don’t need to stretch yourself and dress in a way that you are not used to. You should dress in a way that reflects whom you are. What you already have in your wardrobe is likely sufficient, but just make sure you look presentable, clean, colour-coordinated, and not sloppy. 

While we are on the topic of what you should wear, here’s an important piece of advice: never dress provocatively if you are trying to make a lasting impression. Unless you are trying to send a signal that you’re available for a short term fling, please dress in a way that commands respect. Believe me, it’s never in your favour to dress provocatively because while you will turn heads, they will not be the type of fellows interested in having a meaningful relationship with you. Dressing appropriately will allow you to command respect from everyone around you and increase your chances of making a long-lasting, positive impression.

Your appearance is not limited just to your clothes or shoes. It also includes your hair, your makeup, the accessories you are wearing, the colour of your nails, and so on. If you’re the sporty type or someone who’d like to send a signal that you’re bold and adventurous, pick a bold and loud colour for your nails or your lipstick. These subtle accents can go a long way in communicating to others the kind of gal you are, and what your personality is about. Watch out for how much makeup you adorn. Too much makeup can convey a lack of confidence in your appearance or that you are trying to hide your facial flaws. Others may also perceive you as being “high maintenance”.  More tips on your appearance are available here.

  1. Your body language

Have you ever been around someone who made you feel unwelcome? It could have been the way they pursed their lips, folded their arms across their chest, or positioned their body away from you. Body language refers to the subtle behaviours and non-verbal cues that arise from our subconscious minds. They can have a bigger impact than the words we speak out loud. 

The next time you are out and about, take notice of what your body language is like around others, like your friends, the sales clerk, the waitress at a restaurant, or a guy you’re secretly interested to know more about at a singles event. Now observe how these people interact with you. Chances are, the more welcoming your body language is towards others, the more they will also be more open with you! This is the natural law of attraction, and the best part is, you are in control. 

Here are the must-do’s when it comes to your body language the next time you come across a guy you’re wanting to impress: first, sit or stand up straight – don’t slouch because your posture projects how confident you are about yourself as a person. Men are attracted to ladies who have a healthy self-esteem and don’t need a man to complete them. Make sure your entire body is facing his. Make eye contact and hold your gaze for at least five seconds, and make sure you smile. Your arms should not be folded in front of you. Instead, let them rest on your sides, comfortable and relaxed. Use hand gestures occasionally to emphasize your words and project your passion for the topic. Be alright with a few seconds of silence, but catch his gaze before saying hi and introducing yourself. If there is an opportunity to shake hands while you introduce yourself, make sure you give him a firm handshake – this indicates to him that you are confident about yourself, and you know what you want.

By the way, watch your manners. This sounds super basic, but I thought I’d put it out there. Don’t forget your “please” and “thank you’s”.  

If you suffer from anxiety and have a hard time staying calm, check out our blog about dating for introverts.

  1. The words you speak

If introducing yourself is too forward and nerve-wrecking for you, make a friendly comment or ask an open-ended question about the event or situation you share with your person of interest, while still smiling. Something like “What’s the quickest dish you’d recommend making?” or “This is my first time, how about you?” or “Did you catch what he was saying?” Never ask a close-ended question that can be answered with a yes or no, because you’ll have to muster enough courage to ask another question soon after. “Is this your first time here?” or “Are you enjoying yourself?” are examples of close-ended questions that will leave you scrambling to keep the conversation going.

It is always the best approach to be yourself as the conversation progresses. Remember, if you have to act like someone else or think like someone else around him, you will not be happy if your relationship progresses to a deeper level. An authentic relationship is one where you can enjoy each other as the unique beings you are, with your unique personality. Drawing a parallel once again with getting a job, the job interview serves a dual purpose – for the prospective employer to learn more about you and determine if you’re the right person for the job, AND most importantly, for YOU to learn more about the employer to see if this is truly the company and job you’re committed to. So as much as you’re trying to make a strong first impression on him, you’re also trying to assess if he’s a good catch.

Your words are an important reflection of what’s in your mind – how you perceive the world around you, your attitude, how you think and how you respond to others. They can reveal how positive you are, how self-confident you are, whether you have a positive attitude, whether you have good intentions, what you are like to live with, and what kind of life you lead. Interesting, huh? The next time you want to learn more about a person, take a few moments to listen carefully to the words they say. Are they positive and uplifting of others? Of themselves? Or do they tend to tear themselves, or others down? Do they tend to see things in a positive light, or a negative light?

Here’s a mind-blowing statistic: according to a research conducted by the National Science Foundation, we have around 12,000 – 50,000 thoughts daily, and 80% of them are negative. First of all, I am amazed that we have that many thoughts everyday (no wonder I am always busy), and secondly, it sure appears that if left unchecked, we have a greater tendency to think negatively than positively. (Spoiler alert: Your mind is really an important ingredient that can make or break any relationship. Learn more about how you can work on yours here). So watch yourself and intentionally keep your conversation positive. A great start is, don’t say anything negative about others, and definitely don’t say anything negative about yourself.

  1. Be genuinely curious

The best thing you can do to make the best first impression on the guy of your dreams is to be genuinely curious and practice active listening. Here are some ways that “genuinely curious” show up, from his perspective: 

  1. We take turns to speak.
  2. When I’m speaking, she’s listening.
  3. I know she’s listening because she’s asking me questions about what I’m saying.
  4. She’s interested in learning more about me.
  5. I’m learning about the things we have in common.
  6. Her facial expression is warm and positive – she has a genuine smile as she’s looking at me.
  7. She’s looking at me, not at the other cute guy across the room.

A healthy relationship is one where both parties are interested in learning more about each other. If he seems more interested in talking about himself, but starts to look disinterested when you’re sharing about yourself, it could be a red flag that he may not be the type of guy you want to be in relationship with. Just as you should watch your own body language, you should also be watching his. 

I have often been amazed when my husband says or does things for me that tells me he’s been listening and watching what I value all these years. Discovering more about each other is a process that never stops in your romantic relationship. It is the evidence that your relationship is alive and healthy.

  1. Flaunt your greatest asset

Remember how I asked you to figure out the greatest asset you bring to your relationships? Now is the time to flaunt it! Is your greatest asset that you are witty? Funny? Intellectual? Sarcastic? Objective? Warm? Authentic? Joyful? Calm? Kind? 

Be careful with this one. We have all been in conversations with someone who seems to know something about everything! Remember, balance your greatest asset with the other points above, like being genuinely curious about him, being positive, and watching your body language (and his, as well). Conversations are, after all, like Tango. You and your partner take turns to lead the conversation or follow the conversation when it’s your turn to speak, but always moving to the same rhythm.  

Your greatest asset is unique to you, and will serve to keep you top of his mind long after the conversation is over. Use it to your advantage.

  1. Close the deal (… I mean, leave it open)

How do you close your conversation with your guy in a way that leaves the door open for future encounters? Is it alright for a gal to ask him for his number? Here are 3 simple things you can do to keep the door open for future conversations:

  1. Ask for his help.

Men are genetically built with more muscles for a purpose – they are doers. And they love it when they can serve you. So go ahead and ask him for help with something you found out he’s good at during your conversation. If he’s someone at work, ask him for help with an area of his expertise, like spreadsheets or business strategy. If he’s someone from a place of worship, ask him for help with the area he volunteers in. If he’s someone you met at a hobby club, ask him for help with getting better with your craft. It’s alright if you don’t yet know what you need his help for – leave the door open for future connections. Say something like “I might need your help with X…”.

  1. Ask how you can reach him.

It’s the 21st century – his phone number is not the only way to reach him. Be creative and ask him for his social media contacts. “Are you on Facebook?” or “Can I have your email address?” That’s way less intimidating for you than asking for his phone number, if you’re feeling nervous about asking. Alternatively, it might be easier to just say “Can I give you a missed call?” or “Can I text you?”

What’s the worst case scenario? He says no? That doesn’t seem too bad right?

  1. Offer your contact information.

If you’re nervous about asking how you can reach him, you can offer your contact information. Again, you’re not limited to giving out your phone number (who uses the phone anymore?). You can always offer up your email or social media handle. If you have a website, you can say “check out my website at…” 

This strategy puts the ball in his court, which serves a dual purpose of giving him access to you, plus it allows you to test how interested he is in carrying on this conversation. A word of warning: men can be quite “compartmentalized” in their brain. Their attention will move to something else as soon as you part ways and you may not hear back from them anytime soon. The waiting game can be painful. I personally prefer to take the bull by the horns and get his contact information. Again, what’s the worst case scenario if you don’t get the job? You find another job!

After the interaction

Now that you have paved the way for the possibility of a relationship with your person of interest, what are some things for you to keep in mind so you make a lasting impression on him?

  1. Slow down with your response.

Whether you got his contact information, or he has yours, go easy on your response. Reaching out to him too soon after your last encounter may make you appear “desperate”. Men love a sense of achievement. In a new relationship, a girl they are not so sure about yet who falls on their lap represents something they didn’t achieve on their own. So wait awhile before reaching out to him again. A time lapse of at least 5 days is a good space of time to make a heart grow fonder in the absence. If he reaches out to you, even better! Appear interested, but not too excited. Tell him you’re glad he called and yes, you’d be interested to meet up again. If you feel like pushing the needle even more, tell him you’ll get back to him on a better time to meet up, and then make him wait for a day or two before you call him back with a time. This will ignite the “chase” instinct in him and make him want you more! It also communicates that you have a full life, which is a great sign of a potential healthy mate who does not need someone to complete them.

  1. Keep your options open.

Finally, remember, you’ve only just started a conversation with someone interesting. It may come to a dead end, or the beginning of a beautiful lifelong relationship. Sure, you are excited that the first contact has been made, but keep your options open. No one has made a commitment to be exclusive just yet. Finding true love is a journey.

In the beginning of my journey of finding love, someone said something to me that stuck with me to this day: there is no difference in how a friendship or a romantic relationship starts. Both begin with getting to know someone as friends where you are your authentic self. I think that is a great reminder when it comes to your search for love because a healthy romantic relationship is one where you are both the best of friends. So focus on learning more about each other as friends first, and if your friendship blossoms into a romantic relationship, that’s a bonus!

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