Like most skills, learning how to make a strong first impression takes time and practice to master. Approaching a new person and addressing them with confidence are vulnerable situations that many would like to avoid. However, if you want to find success in social settings, whether that be with a group of a peers or a new work environment, it’s essential you learn the fundamentals of making a good first impression.

Ask for Advice From Your Friends

A common piece of advice for people about to enter a new social environment is to play to your strengths, meaning that you should think of your best qualities and advertise those as best you can. But just what are your best qualities? It can be hard to determine, especially because so much of what makes us unique individuals are the aspects of our personality that come most naturally, like our sense of humor or intelligence. So, how can you play by your strengths if you don’t know what they are?

This is where your friends can come in handy. Ask your close friends how you are perceived by the world. Ask them what positive qualities people initially recognize and what are some unconscious negative behaviors you should limit. The answers may shock or even offend you but it will be worth knowing as you approach new social settings.

Be on Time

This one is a no-brainer. Some people will tolerate tardiness, but very few are unfazed by it. Being late shows you don’t respect the time of the person or people you’re meeting. It’s any easy way to build a bad impression even before the meeting starts.

Dress for the Occasion

A first impression will not always involve dressing in fancy clothing, although there are items you should own for those occasions. Regardless of the setting, however, there is always a right way and a wrong way to dress.

Before you leave to meet a new person, ask yourself how they are likely to be dressed. If it’s a business setting, they might wear a blazer or a tie. If you’re meeting them at a skate park, they might wear sneakers and jeans. Whatever it is, do your best to match your dress to their expectations. It will make it easier for the two of you to connect.

Find Areas of Similarity

Out of all the ways how to make a strong first impression, perhaps the fastest is to find areas of similarity between you and the other person. Maybe you both grew up in the same area, or like the same music, or follow the same sports team.

Focus your energy on unlocking these bits of information. It will make the conversation more about the other person than yourself—which is almost always appreciated by new acquaintances—and it will give you a substantive topic to discuss.

Follow Up

How many times have you promised someone you would send them a Facebook message, or a link, or a thank-you note and you completely forgot to follow through? People always appreciate a sign that you thought of them even after you parted ways. Be mindful when you make these promises and do your best to follow through.