Updated: Aug 11, 2019
We all have times in our lives where we need to impress someone. Maybe you’re trying to impress a guy, impress your boss, or impress your interviewer. Creating a feeling of respect and admiration that’s directed your way can help you find a better job, a lifelong supporter in all your endeavors or just a leg up on the competition.
But here’s the thing: I’m not going to tell you anything that will blow your mind. There’s no secret trick to being impressive. It comes from a series of consistent actions, and none of them are complicated or difficult.
Most of the time, it truly is not very hard to be impressive because the bar is so low. If you can nail these things that I’m about to tell you, you will easily be more impressive than 90% of people purely because so few people do all of these things.
None of them are industry-specific, and assuming you’re above the age of about 16, these will work for you. (Middle-schoolers are fickle. What impresses them one week won’t work the next. Don’t bother.)
Now, if you need a little help with this, I have a whole blog post about how to be punctual, but in short, showing up on time is something that is so small and so easy to do once you get the hang of it, but it makes a massive difference in how others view you.
Showing up late says to other people that you see your time as more important than theirs. Before you’ve even interacted with them, you’ve disrespected them.
There’s a reason that one of the most common bits of interview advice is to show up 15 minutes early—you show your interviewer and potential future boss that you respect them, and you’re organized enough to get where you need to be when you need to be there.
Many people will immediately write you off as someone who is untrustworthy, unreliable, and unimpressive if you aren’t punctual—especially if you consistently show up late and fail to send a quick heads-up text. Lateness is often seen as an indicator that you may fail to show up when it matters in other areas of life, and if you can’t show up, you aren’t going to impress.
If you struggle to be punctual, two of the most helpful things that you can do are 1. Build extra time into your schedule to do things and 2. Be truly honest with yourself about how long it takes to do things.
If your schedule is jam-packed and you show up late all of the time, start giving yourself more time—even twice as long as you previously might have. This may require saying “no” to some of the things that you previously would have said “yes” to, but being reliable is typically more impressive than being busy. After all, there’s a difference between “busy,” and “productive,” and most people you need to impress aren’t impressed by busyness.
There’s no way around it: clear communication is imperative if you want to impress someone. No one wants to stare at your email for five minutes, trying to figure out what is it that you’re talking about and if you’re asking anything of them. No one has that kind of time.
Rather than worrying about whether the recipients of my online communications will have any idea what I’m talking about or not, I use Grammarly.*
Grammarly is the second set of eyes that I need to catch all of the issues in my writing. Not only does it check my grammar and spelling (which I’m terrible at), but it also tells me when my sentences are unclear or too long, and whether my tone is appropriate for whatever I’m writing.
The majority of the posts on this blog have been checked by Grammarly, and I know it’s saved me from publicly making some ugly grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. (Just now it told me that there are 2 m’s in “grammatical.”)
If you want to impress, it’s not enough to proofread your own work. It’s way too easy to miss our own mistakes because we reread too quickly. Our minds gloss over our mistakes because we know what we mean, so it’s okay, right? No. Ensure that you’re communicating clearly by making sure that you have Grammarly there to catch the mistakes that you miss* (or just don’t know about! Grammar is difficult!)
Reading more helps you impress in dozens of different ways.
First, reading more can help you do all of the other things on this list. There are plenty of books out there that will help you become a better person. They’ll help you build the habits you want, shift into a mindset that allows you to turn your goals into results, and get out of your way-too-small box.
If you’re looking for self-improvement books that actually bring results and offer actionable advice that you can use to create change, I have some recommendations.
Second, reading more will help you be impressive because, chances are, the people that you’re trying to impress are readers. After all, successful people read, and they’ll be much more impressed with your knowledge of Hesse and Vonnegut than with the events of last night’s episode of The Bachelor.
By staying well-read and having some books—both classics and those prevalent in today’s zeitgeist—you’ll be able to contribute to discussions about them, reference them when relevant (always impressive!) and bond with other readers over mutual love or hate of certain books.
On top of books having the ability to both improve your life and help you directly impress others, they’ll also expand your vocabulary (which in turn enables you to communicate more clearly), open your mind to the perspectives of others, helping you be more empathetic and able to relate to people (not necessarily impressive, but it will make them like you), and give you a broader base of knowledge to draw from.
If you’re struggling to fit more reading into your life, I have a whole post about that. My current strategy for making sure I read daily is to do it first thing in the morning as part of my morning routine. This helps to get me out of bed because I’m excited to read and guarantees that I have a chance to read, no matter how busy my day ends up being.
If you’ve never been much of a reader or haven’t read much since school and are looking for a place to start, come check out my Goodreads account to see all of my recommendations across genres, or head over to the /r/suggestmeabook subreddit, which is one of my all-time favorite subreddits.
Do What You Say You’re Going to Do
There are few things more annoying—and few ways to lose someone’s trust as quickly—than saying you’re going to do something and not doing it, and yet this is an issue that runs rampant in many offices, relationships, and partnerships.
If, after a meeting, you say, “Yeah, I’ll send those notes right over!” send the notes over. If you tell someone that you’ll pick them up from the airport, pick them up from the airport. All of the Obligers* out there are reading this wondering why I need to say it, but there are plenty of people out there who need to hear it.
In a similar vein, finish what you start. One way that you’re never going to impress people is by spending weeks, months, or years talking about how you “want to do X” or are “thinking about doing Y.”
X and Y have no impact on anyone’s life unless you actually do them, and people very quickly tire of hearing about plans that never happen.
Once you start X or Y, stick it out. See it through to the end. Plenty of people start a new project on a whim every week. That’s not impressive. Very, very few people actually finish the majority of the things that they start. That is impressive.
If you’re a habitual starter but never finish anything, this post can help you change that.
Getting—and staying—organized, which in itself is impressive, will also help you with every other item on this list, and it will help other people improve their lives. Though improving someone else’s life isn’t necessarily impressive on its own, it will definitely help you form a good impression.
Become the person who can produce that paper that your boss needs out of thin air. Learn people’s coffee orders. Create systems that help you keep everything in its place so that you can quickly and easily show up with whatever item or bit of information is needed.
The more organized you are, the easier it will be to be punctual, read more, communicate effectively, and finish the things that you say you’re going to do. Furthermore, the better you are at time management, the easier these things will be.
Life gets busy. You’ve got a lot to do. We’ve all got a lot to do—but you have way more time than you think. Managing your time so that you can make the most of it is always impressive, and the things that you accomplish with that well-managed time are also impressive.
I know I’m not the only person who looks at those people who are writing a book, working full time, raising 3 kids, working out daily, and cooking all of their meals and thinking WOW. Excellent time management and the results of that management are impressive.
If you’re struggling to make the most of your time and fit in all of the things that you need to do each day, here are some resources that may help:
Have a Passion
Boring people are not impressive. No one wants to hear about your life if all you do after your 9-5 is eat takeout in front of the TV, play the game of the moment for a few hours, and go to sleep. You probably don’t want to talk about that, either.
Passionate people are interesting. Interesting is impressive. Even if the person that you’re trying to impress couldn’t care less about your tropical fish aquarium, how to make the perfect vegan peach galette, or why brand A makes better band saws than brand B, the fact that you genuinely care about and have extensive knowledge on a topic is impressive. (Just know when to shut up.)
I know that I said the things on this list aren’t difficult, but this one can be. Many people who have never had a passion before have no idea how to go about finding one and may not even realize that finding a passion is an active process that you have to put effort into.
If you’re feeling passionless and just aren’t sure how to go about finding an activity that you truly care about working on, I highly recommend reading both The Happiness Paradox and How to Find Your Passion.
This one goes back to what I said earlier about people wanting you to make their lives easier. Being prepared shows forethought, planning, the ability to predict potential changes in direction. It also shows that you care about what’s going on and want to contribute in a positive, above-and-beyond type of way.
Coming prepared and offering an unexpected bit of help is a great way to elicit that “oh, wow.” reaction from someone. It makes you stand out in their mind and puts you a step above your competition.
Being prepared involves doing some of the other things on this list, like managing your time and staying organized, but also involves thinking ahead and thinking beyond your own specific needs. Ask yourself what problems the team may run into. Think about what items other people are likely to forget or end up needing.
Stay actively engaged in meetings and conversations. Often the little things that go unnoticed by others will tell you where the sticky points will be, giving you a chance to prepare for what’s coming.
Bonus: Go Above and Beyond
Being baseline decent at each of the things on this list will make you impressive. You’ll easily stand out among the average crowd. People will remember and recognize you, trust you, and know that you are a valuable person worth keeping around.
But if you’re trying to impress the best of the best or you’re up against some stiff competition, going above and beyond solidifies that you care and will be the best person for the job/relationship/whatever.
Choose a couple of things on this list that stand out to you or would be most beneficial for your specific endeavor, and do everything in your power to nail them. Become so impeccably organized that people introduce you as “the organized one” or so good at time management that everyone who’s heard your name knows that you’re never late.
These things, all together, are impressive, but being really good at a couple of them will take you places. You will stand out.
As with everything else that I talk about on this blog, all of these things require consistency. Sure, doing all of them will get you noticed at a job interview, but if you then show up late on the first day of work and can’t find any of the papers that you were told to bring with you, that good reputation that you had built goes out the window. Turn these items into a lifestyle.
And in the end, know that sometimes, no matter how impressive you’ve managed to be, things won’t work out the way that you want them to. But the impressive way to handle a failure? Turn it into an opportunity.