When meeting someone for the first time – it takes a glance, a mere few seconds for the other person to evaluate you. The first few seconds of any encounter is enough for that person to quickly form an opinion, based on your appearance and the way you have presented yourself.
In such short time, how can you accurately portray yourself?
A first impression is primarily built on 3 factors:
1) your appearance and the way you are dressed
2) your body language
3) your mannerisms
That first encounter could have far-reaching effects – whether that encounter is for a professional interview, a marriage proposal, or with a mere passer-by.
• Dress Your Islamic Best
Some people may think that dressing up in a provocative manner will leave great first impressions on people, however, Muslims do not adhere to this idea. We shouldn’t be ashamed of the garments of taqwa we wear; the dress code prescribed for us is a mark of our identity, an act of ‘ibadah.
The way we dress should be tidy, clean, modest and appropriate for a Muslim, and that is regardless of our gender – since modesty applies to both men and women.
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Every deen has a distinctive quality, and the distinctive quality of Islam is modesty.”(Abu Dawud).
Leaving someone with a great impression of you should fill their heart with respect, not disgust or lust. The way you dress should portray the Islamic principle of modesty.
• Look Tidy
Dressing modest and in an appropriate manner is one component, but we should still aim to look good, and “good” means to be clean, and tidy.
Again, your aim is not to entice the person you meet, rather this takes the simple approach of looking presentable and approachable. Be sure that you’re not neglectful with your personal hygiene, and your clothes are not spoiled with yesterday’s breakfast!
Cleanliness and hygiene is considered of high importance in Islam as the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Cleanliness is half of faith…[and the hadith continues].” (Sahih Muslim). You could even make wudu before you go to your meeting or appointment!
Men may also want to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) by wearing attar. However, women should be careful with wearing fragrance as wearing strong fragrances that attract men was definitely not the practice of the Sahabiyaat (female Sahaba).
The Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) instructed women not to adorn themselves with perfume when they go out: “If one of you (women) wants to go to the mosque, let her not put on perfume.” (Muslim). So sisters, you can wear perfume at home, around (mahram) family or sisters but refrain from wearing it outside of the home.
This is one of the easiest forms of charity – that’s right, even a simple smile is an act that benefits us both in this world, and the hereafter.
“Your smile for your brother is charity.” (Fiqh-us-Sunnah).
So, for those initial 3 seconds? Say cheeeeese!
• Carry Yourself Well
Be aware of the way you portray yourself with your body language. Walking and sitting in a great posture can be uplifting for your body physically, and will also help boost your self-confidence.
Try slouching on the sofa with your arms crossed, and then compare that to sitting in a chair with a straight back. You will feel the difference, and others will too! Your aim should be to remain confident and collected.
Stay clear of going to the opposing extreme of being full of pride and arrogance in the way that you carry yourself, for that is against the Sunnah. The Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) informed us that Hell Fire is for the arrogant, and the Prophet himself (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) walked upon the earth humbly.
• What Now?
So, you look great, you feel great – now what?:
First and foremost, be punctual.
Time-keeping should not be limited to important interviews and appointments. Everywhere you go, everyone you meet will take that initial ‘few seconds’ to analyze you, whether that is at an interview for a top job, or a simple visit to the local Masjid.
Always plan ahead and be aware of staying punctual, even in situations you may not feel are very important. If it takes 30 minutes to reach your destination, it would be advisable to leave your home 35-40 minutes beforehand. We should apply the same policy with our salah – how can we be late for our appointment with Allah, The Exalted?
Secondly, keep it simple – be appropriate.
Your demeanor will speak for itself. Consider the maturity levels required from you in the situation that you are in, you might get away with being a little silly when you’re surrounded by half a dozen kids, but that same behavior may not be appreciated when you’re stuck in a group of elders.
I never fail to find adaptable people fascinating, as that comes with the skill of being able to behave appropriately around different types of people. Mastering this skill can be quite simple, just take a quick look around to gauge the age group before you decide how to speak and act!
Be sure to distinguish the difference between being adaptable to those around you, and simply imitating those around you. The latter, is a must-avoid! Take your surroundings into account, but never lose your values and morals. You have a duty to also be appropriate in your actions as a Muslim.
Stay within Islamic boundaries always, and be mindful of things like modesty between sexes. Brothers, going for a hand-shake with a sister as part of your salaams will most definitely be crossing the boundaries! Practice being mindful of such things in your day to day life.
• What to Say
Upon meeting another Muslim, what better first word to utter from your tongue than the beautiful greeting and du’a of “Assalamu alaikum” (May peace be upon you). Remember the ajr (reward) lies in this Islamic greeting.
In general, try to be polite and positive in the way you speak. Fill your conversation with good words and positive perceptions, people will love to be around you. Have a warm and inviting approach with your words; in groups, invite everyone into the conversation as that is a charm in itself.
Remember, there is no need to say too much! We have 2 ears, and 1 mouth, and we should aim to use them proportionately. Avoid idle talk and refrain from the bad use of your tongue in sinful acts such as lying, gossiping, or cursing.
Our Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) advised us on this matter:“Speak a good word or remain silent.” (Bukhari).
Words are powerful, and once they have left your tongue they can not be returned.
Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had the best character, one that endeared him to the hearts of Muslims and brought non-Muslims to Islam!
He (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) left impressions not only on those whom he met, but on generations of people that have never met him and have only read about his stories and encounters. So what better role model to take in our behavior and conduct than that of the Messenger of Allah – the one whose impression is lasting, the one whose impression has rippled through generations and generations of people.
A Muslim should be of great character.
A great character leaves a great impression.
And a great impression of a Muslim gives a great impression of Islam!
Is there something missing? What’s your recipe for making a fantastic first impression? Let us know in the comments section below!
About the author
Sania recently graduated with a BSc in Public Health Nutrition. She is currently undertaking a Classical Islamic Studies Diploma course. Her focus as a new writer is to delve into her fields of interest; in Health and Nutrition, and Islam.
Having a personal passion from a young age to read and write, she has dedicated much time to writing personal articles, poems, and short novels, and enjoys entertaining the mini-crowd with her children’s stories.
You can find Sania at the Feesabeelillah Sister’s Club, where she will be offering sister-to-sister advice on health and nutrition, and will be available for weekly counselling sessions.