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All About You: Make a positive impression

Richard Hawk

EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

“You only get one chance to make a first impression.”

When you meet somebody for the first time, you and your new acquaintance are evaluating each other. You’re determining how you feel about the other person’s looks, voice inflections and what’s said. You’re both making quick judgments that will strongly affect your feelings about each other.

That’s why I’d like to pass on some advice on how to make a positive impression.

When you first meet someone you’ll be spending time with, start with “Hello.” Then say, “My name is (your name)” and finish with “What’s yours?”

I know that’s very basic advice, but many times I’ve witnessed people doing a poor job of meeting someone. The person doesn’t smile or give good eye contact, and may even give the impression that it’s an inconvenience to talk.

It’s not only your initial meeting with someone that contributes to a positive impression. The way you greet and interact with people you see frequently – even daily – can make a huge difference in your relationships and how others feel about you.

I’m still giving talks and training but, because of COVID-19 restrictions, I’m also back in the field as a full-time safety professional. It’s been an uplifting experience, and has proven to me how critical my communication skills and uplifting attitude are to my professional success.

When I come upon a crew or meet someone on a worksite, I always say something positive or humorous right away. Even if they’re someone I’ve worked with for weeks, the first impression of the day still matters. It helps strengthen our relationship. Think about that the next time you greet someone at work.

Here are some other simple ways to make a positive impression:
Once you know the person’s name, use it. It will make the other person feel welcomed and grab their attention. Dale Carnegie, the legendary author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” wrote something that still holds true: “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” I’ve also found it helpful to use names during pre-job briefings and when giving safety instructions – it helps keep people focused on my instructions.
Ask personal (but not intimate) questions. If you’re speaking with someone you don’t know well, you can ask them where they live or what brings them to the area, or anything else that seems appropriate. The point is to focus on them, not yourself. For example, when I greet co-workers in the morning, I’ll sometimes ask them if they slept well the night before. You’d be surprised how quickly that leads to an engaging conversation. The question also shows I’m interested in their lives.
Your body language matters, too – more than most of us realize. Holding your head high and having a vibrant appearance is energizing. Several years ago I worked with someone who specialized in improving training performance. Seeing her always brightened my mood, even if it was only for a moment. After knowing her for a while, I told her how much I enjoyed seeing her and asked what she does to make such a positive impression on people. She said she finds joy in her interactions with other people and tries to “leave my special mark every day on every person I meet.”

Let’s do the same. Whenever we encounter somebody, whether they’re a fresh face or a longtime acquaintance, let’s make it a point to make our “special mark” that will leave a lasting positive impression.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Richard Hawk helps leaders inspire employees to care more about their safety and health so “nobody gets hurt.” He also has a long history of success getting safety leaders to increase their influence and make safety fun. For more than 35 years, Richard’s safety keynotes, training sessions, books and “Safety Stuff” e-zine have made a positive difference in the safety and health field. Learn more about how Richard can improve your employees’ safety performance at

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