Ah, first impressions. The one thing we can all agree to be nerve-racking. Whether meeting your significant other’s best friend or your potential new boss, we all have experienced the desire to give an excellent first impression. And undoubtedly, we have all experienced the disappointment that comes from failing to do so.
We all know the basics of an introduction. If it’s for a job, you stay true to yourself while also being extremely professional and confident. If it’s to meet someone in your social life, you may want to appear witty and confidant (without trying too hard). But when you have an off day, or just don’t know how to ace the first impression to begin with…what do you do?
First impressions can be very influential
While it can feel embarrassing to miss the mark of a good first impression, depending on the situation, it can also come with some pretty serious consequences. For instance, if the poor first impression happened in an important job interview, you definitely won’t be getting an offer. It doesn’t matter to the company that you know you were having an off day and you know you would be perfect for the position.
If you miss the shot, here’s what you should do to bounce back
Even though giving a bad first impression can feel like the end of the world, there are things you can do to reverse the negative outcome and give the impression you meant to all along. The following tips should be studied and kept in the back of your mind for use at any given moment.
Decide if it needs a do-over at all
When we feel like someone didn’t see us for the real us or generally wasn’t too fond of us, we can be tempted to go out of our way to change their impression. But sometimes it’s not worth worrying about in the first place. So before you put your foot in your mouth trying to convince someone they should really like you or give you a second chance, assess the situation once you’ve calmed down and see if it’s worth the stress. 
Stick to them like glue
If you want someone to pay attention to you, regardless of their first impression of you, it’s important to create situations where the person relies on you to help them succeed. Identify opportunities for collaboration, even if you feel a little awkward. Psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson says, “It’s natural to shy away from people who don’t think highly of you. But you need to fight that instinct and instead stick to them like glue if you hope to correct their misperceptions.”
Remind them of the importance of fairness
This tip is a little gutsy, but if you do it right, you’ll have a second chance in no time. A recent study found when people aspire to fairness, or have even been asked to consider it, they tend to inhibit some biases like gender stereotypes. To use this in your favor, comment on how the ability to judge someone accurately is a key skill for everyone to have. The subtle comment causes the listener to consider whether or not they have misjudged you.
Apologize, but don’t over-apologize
If you know exactly why you didn’t come across as your usual charming self, accept it and be honest about it. Simply apologize for the misstep and move on. But don’t feel the need to suddenly apologize profusely. It can make the person you’re apologizing to feel they need to constantly reassure you. And no one likes that.
When it comes to making up for a bad first impression, a great action to take is to turn right around and show a different side of your personality that’s a little easier to like. If you made a joke that wound up being a little off-color, then recover by demonstrating sincerity. Or if you tried to seem sincere and it came off a little fake, demonstrate compassion.
Be aware of how you are perceived
Self-awareness is key to success, no matter what we’re talking about. But when it comes to first impressions, it’s just as important. If you are a very shy person, and you know that about yourself, be aware of how it could seem to people who are judging you for the first time. In social situations, it could make you seem cold, even thought you’re actually incredibly uncomfortable. So change up your body language to appear more open, no matter how quiet you may be, and don’t be afraid to ask easy questions like, “where are you from?,” “what do you do for a living?,” etc..
Wait it out, look for the best time to explain yourself
Timing is key. When it comes to wanting to undo a bad first impression, you may be overzealous in your attempt to fix the problem. However, that could make it look like you’re coming off too strong or you’re a pushy person. Instead, wait it out. One of my very best friends started out as someone I couldn’t stand. My first impression of her was that she was whiney and entitled. About a year later, we met again under different circumstances and began chatting. She was able to explain to me what was going on in her life that led me to have that impression of her, and it gave us the opportunity to talk without any bias. We’re so close in fact, that she’s one of my bridesmaids. But if she had been too pushy about making sure I liked her right after we first met, I probably wouldn’t have given her the time of day.
Give them new context about your life
In 2015, a study conducted by Cornell University found it was possible to change someone’s impression of you just by giving information that puts your actions in a new light. The study involved telling participants about a man who broke into a house and took precious objects. Obviously the participants disliked the man. Even when told the same man had once saved a baby’s life, the participants judged him still. However, the precious items the man took were two children, and he broke into the home because it was burning down! Changing the context completely changed the perception the participants had on the man. So if you can find a way to show your initial actions were well-intentioned, you can usually change that bad first impression to a good one.
So what do you think? Do you feel more capable of ensuring that person you just met likes you? Perception is so important, but it’s often hard to read. So remember to assess the situation thoroughly before going out of you way to redo the initial impression. After all, that’s your first impression of the other person, too; they may feel just as embarrassed as you do!
So be self-aware and know when to take action and when to let things go for a while. Sometimes second chances occur naturally, and other times you need to work for them. No matter which it is, remember the tips in this article and you’re sure to leave a great impression next time.
Featured photo credit: rawpixel.com via stocksnap.io
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