People who make good first impressions never do these 4 things—even 'when they are nervous'

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First impressions can easily go south, whether it's because we feel insecure or simply lack self-awareness. Our body language, tone and ability to listen all influence how others develop their initial thoughts about us.

As a journalist and public speaking coach, I've spent years studying how successful people communicate. Here are four things people who make good first impressions never do, even when they're nervous:

1. They never just focus on themselves.

One of the most common mistakes is rushing to talk about ourselves. That's understandable: We want to impress the other person, so we throw out lines about our accomplishments, interests and experiences.

But this can backfire. For example, I've had people mispronounce my name because they weren't paying attention the first time, or they'll ask me a question I've already answered.

The best communicators make it a point to hear what the other party is saying and engage with them, rather than focusing all the attention on themselves.

2. They never try to be funny without context.

Until you really get to know someone, it's impossible to predict whether your joke will inspire laughter or simply fall flat.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't try to be funny. Humor can be a great tool for easing tension or getting rid of awkwardness. The key is to use positive humor, not negative humor.

Positive humor:

  • Lifts each other up.
  • Laughs with others.
  • Gently creates a safe, comfortable and vulnerable space.
  • Is gentle-spirited and humble.
  • Integrates the listener with self and others.

Negative humor:

  • Puts the other person down.
  • Laughs at the expense of others.
  • Humiliates, discounts or ridicules.
  • Deals in stereotypes.
  • Is defensive or competitive.

If you say something that the other person didn't find funny, acknowledge it with a simple: "I'm sorry, I guess that joke didn't go over well."

3. They never network without doing prep work.

This is especially crucial if you know you're about to meet with an important person, such as a high-level executive or new boss.

If you're going to an event where you can see the attendee list in advance, identify a handful of people you want to meet. Prepare to move beyond small talk and personalize interactions.

Then come up with questions that are unique to their experience or something that already connects you, and lead with that. Maybe you have a specific question about their area of expertise, for example, or are a fan of a book they wrote.

4. They never expect the worst.

In social interactions, it's easy to overlook the potential upsides and instead obsess over all the things that can go wrong.

Meeting people for the first time can be a little awkward, and you might make mistakes. But if you don't expect a perfect performance, you're less likely to overthink and stumble over your words.

Keep a realistic outlook and think positively. If you're having fun, others will be more likely to pick up on your energy and feel your enthusiasm.

Celeste Headlee is an award-winning journalist, radio host, speaker and best-selling author of "We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter″, "Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving" and "Speaking of Race: Why Everybody Needs to Talk About Racism - and How to Do It." Follow Celeste on Twitter and Instagram.

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