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How to Undo Bad First Impressions (You Don’t Need a Time Machine to Do So!)

How to Undo Bad First Impressions (You Don’t Need a Time Machine to Do So!)

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.

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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. [1]

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.”

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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.[2]

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.

Recover quickly

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.[3]

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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..[4]

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.[5]

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.

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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

Reference

More by this author

Heather Poole

Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

There Are 7 Types of Learners: Which One Are You? What If All the Choices You Make Every Day Aren’t What You Need Most? What To Eat (And Not To Eat) When You Are Suffering From Inflammation! Yes Life Can Be Boring Sometimes. But There’re Some Tricks to Make It More Interesting Why Our Personal Values Matter More Than Ever Today

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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