Have you ever met someone new at a dinner party, networking function, or a dating event, and they rubbed you the wrong way immediately? Something they said or did, or they way they spoke or acted, just really turned you off? Sure, we all have had that experience.
Now let me ask you, do you think the person was truly aware of their negative vibe at the time? Probably not right? They probably did not try to upset you on purpose, right? So if you didn’t tell them afterwards of their bad first impression, then they may never know how they came off, and may even think they made a good impression with you! They may be a bit confused the next time they see you as to why you are running in the opposite direction!
My next question is – could this be you? Is it possible that you accidentally gave an unintended negative first impression with a new co-worker, friend of a friend, or even on a date? Sure it is. Now what can be done?
Here are some quick steps to take to recover from a bad first impression, assuming you were made aware of it afterwards.
1 – Evaluate feedback rationally. Who told you that your first impression was negative? Was it the principle person, friend or observer? Consider the source before you condemn yourself. However if you trust the source, or it comes from the principles’ own mouth, then it is time to move to step two.
2 – Self-evaluate. Ask yourself what impression were you trying to make, and what went wrong? Was this a misunderstanding? Do you do this same thing with other people as well? Is it time you stopped making excuses for this annoying behaviour and accepted that it needs to be changed? Write things down to be clear and focused.
3 – Contact. Send an email or if you are brave enough, a call or face-to-face meeting with your accidental victim. Acknowledge your specific flaw or quirk and explain that that is not normally how you act, or at least explain that there is more to you than just what they saw that evening, and you would like a second chance to show them the real you. You are not apologizing for your personality, but you can let someone know that you are aware of your bad first impression, and want to show a more rounded personality instead of just what was revealed during the first meeting. Most people can really appreciate the bravery and humbleness it takes to do this.
4 – Modify. Did you dominate the conversation last time? Well, next time take a break, ask some questions and listen. Were you so shy and quiet last time that the person thought you were bored or uninterested? Then next time you need to be engaged, make lots of eye contact, use active listening skills, and show enthusiasm. Did the last meeting sound like an interview to the person? Okay, time to lighten up, stick to general topics for now, and give the person time to open up. I am not suggesting you act completely the opposite, but try to modify yourself and take steps in the right direction to be more balanced. This will improve your conversational dynamics.
5 – Try your best. Continue to try to be aware of your own first impressions, and modify when appropriate. But also accept the fact that not everyone will like you or get along with you, as there are different personalities out there. The point is that people do not have to love you, but they should at least feel comfortable with you on a first meeting.
After doing a self-assessment, if you think you need to improve your “art of small talk and winning first impressions”, you may find my customized coaching program helpful. 🙂
Here’s to your confident communications!