First impressions. You only get one shot, and most people will judge you within the first few seconds of meeting you.

beautyWe’re all guilty of committing a wardrobe faux pas or initiating an awkward moment in these situations. Making an assured first impression is incredibly important and necessary in gaining relationships and exuding self-confidence from the get-go, and how we “carry ourselves” can convey inner and outer beauty as much as other factors, such as our apparel and etiquette.

Luckily, it doesn’t cost anything to have good posture. With the help of our experts — SAN ANTONIO WOMAN style editor Camilla Basse; Diane Gottsman, national etiquette and dining authority, author and founder of The Protocol School of Texas; and Courtney Percy, vice president of marketing for Julian Gold — walking into a room with your head held high, gleaming with confidence and style, will become habitual, contagious and leave a powerful first impression.

What is your body saying?
“I consider posture and etiquette to be closely related to body language,” says Percy. “How a person carries herself influences how others see her as well as her own personal moods and habits.” A big part of how we communicate with others is through our body language. You could unknowingly be sabotaging yourself through negative body gestures such as wandering eyes, slumping shoulders, weak handshakes, fidgeting, etc. “Your body language is always sending a message,” explains Gottsman. “People make judgments based on what they see, and the way we present ourselves is the first message we send another person. It lets them know how we feel about ourselves and the situation.”

Everything from your posture to how you angle your body can play a crucial part of first impressions. “As a wardrobe stylist, I place a great deal of importance on what to wear when trying to make a great first impression,” explains Basse. “I always recommend my clients keep their outfit and accessories clean and simple — never fussy.”

Confidence is key.
“Confidence is beautiful,” says Percy. “It doesn’t matter your size, color or shape. Confidence in who you are is always beautiful, and posture and etiquette are a reflection of one’s confidence and mood.” Whether you are in a social or professional setting, your body language will go hand in hand with your confidence level. “Proper etiquette and good posture are always well received, whether directly or indirectly,” explains Percy. “The way you sit, stand, your mannerisms, and your facial expressions reveal a lot about a person — sometimes more than the actual words you are using.”

A person with strong posture will come across as more confident than a person who is slouched over, and those around you will be influenced by your body language. “Speak your name with confidence,” suggests Gottsman. “Introduce yourself by stating both your first and last names — it’s more powerful. Sharing only your first name is forfeiting half of your influence.”

Practice makes perfect.
Simply being aware of your body language can result in immediate improvements. “While you can’t entirely control what someone else thinks,” explains Gottsman, “you can make every effort to put your best foot forward.” Important behaviors when presenting yourself, such as maintaining eye contact, smiling, having a firm handshake and staying polite, are simple but effective ways to make a lasting impression.

“There is always room for improvement,” says Percy. “Be mindful of how you present yourself, and always work to present your best self. Imagine how discouraging and off-putting it is to see someone fidgeting, staring off or showing disregard as you are speaking to them.” Basse advises her clients to “keep their posture top of mind when entering a room because so often it is the nonverbal that captures that great first impression you are seeking.”

BY KRISTIN MEARS