How to overcome making a bad first impression by Roz Usheroff
I can remember a couple of years ago reading a Forbes article on 5 Ways To Make A Killer First Impression, which had more than 541,000 views.
Needless to say, the subject matter is one that is universally recognized as being important. In other words, and looking beyond the number of reads of this particular article, there is no shortage of tip lists and expert advice on how to create a positive image out of the gate.
However, what was more telling to me beyond the fact that making a good first impression is “incredibly important” because you only get “one shot at it”, is the time frame in which that opinion is indelibly formed. Specifically, the reference to a 2005 study by Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov and co-author Janine Willis. According to the article, Todorov and Willis had people view a microsecond of video of a political candidate. Based on this split second interaction the research subjects were able to predict with 70-percent accuracy which candidate would win the election. Think about it for a moment, a microsecond of exposure to the video demonstrated that people can make accurate snap judgements in just a tenth of a second! Talk about a narrow margin of error.
But here is the thing, and despite our earnest efforts to always put our best foot – or in this case face – forward, what happens if you have an off day? No matter how accomplished or polished one might be in presenting themselves to the outside world, not everyone can be “on” every second of every day. Let’s face it, no matter who we are, we will have undoubtedly rubbed someone the wrong way at some point in time.
So to me an equally important question is what do you do if you have made a less than spectacular first impression?
“Our belief does not change reality or truth. You may sincerely believe something to be true, but you may be sincerely wrong.” – from The Future of You! Creating Your Enduring Brand
While changing someone’s initial impression of who you are might be difficult, I am a big believer in taking the “can’t judge a book by it’s cover” approach.
Even though there is no guarantee that you will be able to convert everyone to seeing who you really are in a new light, the chances are very good that by taking the following steps you will be able to at least give them a reason to reconsider their original impression.
- To Thine Own Self Be True! Like your values and goals, your beliefs are at the heart of what makes you your authentic self. In fact, it is your authentic self that will enable you to connect with people in a meaningful and enduring manner. Whether making a first impression the “first time,” or attempting to restore or rebuild your reputation, the key to remember is that your beliefs will ultimately dictate your actions. As we all know, your actions will “speak louder than your words”!
- Do an assessment of how you see yourself at this moment as compared to how others see you. There is an old proverb that tells the story of perception that is defined by three mirrors. The first mirror is how others perceive you, the second mirror is how you see yourself, and the third mirror is the truth. Therefore it is important to get to the truth, in essence the real you. In this context, you need to build greater self-awareness of how others perceive you. This means that you have to conduct market research and seek feedback from trusted advisors, confidantes and sponsors who will tell you the truth.
- Become your best PR person. Many of us have been conditioned since childhood to think that self-promotion is bad and should be avoided at all costs. But tooting your own horn is no longer an option. Building a reputation for making things happen and being able to talk about it are critical to your personal brand. I am not talking about spotlight seeking chest pounding gestures that are self serving. What I am talking about is finding different ways to overtly demonstrate your value to both your organization as well as to those with whom you work. In short, when you help others to succeed, you cannot help but be successful yourself!
- Recognize that changing someone’s perception will take time. As stated earlier, no matter who you are, you will inevitably make a less than positive impression on someone. While some have suggested that it can take months or even years to erase a bad first impression, a Harvard study suggests that it will take eight subsequent positive encounters to change that person’s negative opinion of you. In this context be persistent and patient.
The only caveat that I will offer with regard to the above is that you have to accept that not everyone is going to like you. As a result, you need to recognize the real reason why you want to change someone’s opinion of you, as well as determine if that person warrants the effort it will take on your part to get in their good graces.
In other words, if you are doing this because you just can’t stand the fact that someone doesn’t like you, STOP. Don’t do it! You are not running for political office where every vote counts. So be selective as to whose opinion of you really matters.