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How to Come Back From a Bad First Impression

According to the famous saying: “You will never get a second chance to make a first impression”.

Whether it’s a new relationship or a new job, we can sometimes lose hope if our initial encounter doesn’t quite go to plan.

But many business leaders are increasingly suggesting that the old saying about first impressions may not be the end of the story.

With determination, confidence and a little chutzpah, you can in fact make amends and turn a bad start into a long-term positive.

Author and marketing strategist Dorie Clark, who wrote the best-selling book “Reinventing Yourself”, believes there are many ways you can come back from a bad first impression.

“Making a bad first impression doesn’t have to be fatal, and it’s worth the effort to overcome it if you need to get the person on your team,” she says. “Steadily showing them a different side of you – coming in to work early every day for weeks, or consistently expressing praise rather than complaints to your team members – can make a big impact.

“And setting up a joint work project with a colleague with whom you have a strained relationship might not be everyone’s favorite option. But the results can be dramatic.”

Social psychologist and author of the book “No-one Understands You and What To Do About It” Heidi Grant Halvorson agrees, but says it takes a lot of hard work to turn around a bad first impression.

“If you make a bad first impression, it is possible to bounce back and redeem yourself,” Grant Halvorson says. “But it’s like weight loss: You can totally do it, but it’s not going to be easy, so don’t believe anyone who says it will be.”

Second impressions happen when you can get someone else to open their minds to the possibility that their first impression was wrong, and that it’s worth being right. Keep in mind that people aren’t consciously clinging to the first impression — it’s just how brains work.

There are a host of examples of ways you can turn around that less than perfect first impression. They include reassessing your appearance to make sure you look as professional as possible (because non-verbal cues account for a huge percentage of personal impressions) and making a sincere apology to the person who may have misinterpreted your first encounter.

Importantly, remember that it can take a long time and a mountain of work to set things right. According to a Harvard University study, it will take eight subsequent positive encounters to change that person's negative opinion of you.

While that all sounds too hard to bother, don’t give up. It is reassuring to know that you can come back from a bad first impression.



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