Hard to believe right? It takes just a quick glance, maybe three seconds, for someone to evaluate you when you meet for the first time. In this short time, the other person forms an opinion about you based on your appearance, your body language, your demeanor, your mannerisms, and how you are dressed. With every new encounter, you are evaluated and yet another person’s impression of you is formed. These first impression can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo, making those first encounters extremely important, for they set the tone for all the relationships that follows.
Here are some common areas that may lead to creating a bad impression.
- Weak handshake
- Bad or misuse of the English Language
- Inappropriate dress (too revealing, sexy or casual)
- Excessive drinking
- Telling an offensive joke or story
- Getting someone’s name wrong
So how can you turn a bad first impression around?
- Own up to your mistake – A sincere apology can go a long way because you will prove to everyone that you value his or her thoughts about you. Tell the people you offended that you didn’t intend to offend them and that you wish to rectify the situation. Explain the reasons you acted the way you did in your apology. Be careful not to over-apologize because it will make others feel uncomfortable that you keep bringing up the past.
- Use humor. When you are around the people you made a bad impression in front of, poke a little fun at yourself. Once they know you are not afraid to laugh at yourself, it can break up some of the tension. Remember to only direct humor at yourself to avoid any more feelings of discomfort.
- Do not make assumptions. After you have made a bad impression, it can be easy to assume that everyone thinks the worst of you. However, things aren’t always as bad as they seem. Instead of assuming what someone thinks about you, explain to her that you feel ashamed about how you acted and ask her how your behavior affected her.
- Pay attention to future behavior. In order to overcome a bad first impression, future behavior must be consistently good. With enough time and patience, gaining trust and changing perceptions is possible.
Malcolm Gladwell contends in the book “Blink” that first impressions are fairly accurate and stand the test of time. He’s a proponent of a theory called thin-slicing, which states that we make a pretty accurate assessment of a person based on knowing them for only a few seconds.
“It is a central part of what it means to be human,” Gladwell writes. “We thin-slice whenever we meet a new person or have to make sense of something quickly or encounter a novel situation. We thin-slice because we have to, and we come to rely on that ability because there are lots of situations where careful attention to the details of a very thin slice, even for no more than a second or two, can tell us an awful lot.”
All the more reason to make sure that you always leave a good first impression. Those of us in the sales industry know that first impressions are not restricted to the sales environment either. They can happen in the grocery store, on the street corner or even in the bathroom. The point is that you never know where you may meet and interact with that next customer.
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