It’s no secret that first impressions are extremely important if you want a first encounter to evolve into a lasting relationship. Whether it is in a professional environment or a first date, that first impression will define whether people are curious to hear more from you or to write you off.
Research shows that when meeting someone for the first time, our brain makes assumptions in the first snap shot before you even shake hands. This happens unconsciously. If you feel awkward and uncomfortable at a first encounter, it’s probably because uncomfortableness and awkwardness is what the other person projects. On the other hand, if a person is comfortable and projects positive energy, you feel uplifted, comfortable and energized too. In a nutshell, first impressions are not about how you feel but about how you make others feel in your presence.
So what happens if you unintentionally make a bad first impression? Not coming across as you intended can result in people not trusting you, disliking you or even not noticing you. All of these things can harm your personal and professional life. But there is a chance for recovery after leaving a bad first impression – it will just take more effort and time to make up for it since taking away the initial bias people have formed about you needs some considered time and effort.
Here are five ways to make up for a bad first impression:
- Stop the bad impression before it starts.
By admitting that you act differently in a specific situation i.e. by giving the other person rationale and context for your behaviour up front, you warn your perceiver and encourage them to build an element of trust in light of your honesty. They are then more likely to bear with you and look beyond any awkward behavior. For instance, If loud noise tends to make you quiet and grumpy admit this to the person you are interacting with (he/she might cut you some slack)
- Correct your bad first impression in its track
If you notice you behave a bit weird or unusual and you get ‘this bad feeling’ correct your impression in the moment by tweaking your behavior or changing the way you speak. For instance, if you catch yourself complaining unintentionally, pause and take a breath and direct the conversation into another way or focus on the positive side.
- Be patient.
If you are left with a ‘bad feeling’ in your stomach after your first encounter, your feelings are most likely to be accurate and most likely you have left a bad first impression. Don’t rush into trying to immediately make things better but be patient and confident in yourself so that if you have other opportunities to project your usual charming self in subsequent meetings the balance will eventually work in your favour.
- Seize the right moment
You can also seize the right moment to offer help when your perceiver needs it. For instance, say the perceiver is your colleague who is stressed about something, or not feeling in control, reaching out to him/her and offering help can help to counter any initial bad first impression he/she may have of you. Even if they do not take you up on your offer, simply by your recognizing their need can start to build a better impression.
- Sometimes things don’t work out – sometimes some relationships just don’t click through no fault of your own, acknowledge that to yourself and focus on other relationships that are positive.
The bottom line is that leaving bad first impressions can happen to all of us in different occasions in our social and professional lives. If it happens with a person you probably will never see again, reflect on it, learn from it, and let it go. But, if it concerns a person you will probably see more often and you have the opportunity to show your true self, invest the time and effort needed to show the real you. Eventually your perceiver will look beyond their initial bias, see your authentic self and appreciate you for who you are.
My best advice would be: To save yourself a lot a of time and effort, just make sure you leave a successful first impression at any time; by looking your best and staying true to yourself and by carrying positive energy and reflecting this to the world around you.