How to Bounce Back From a Bad First Impression
Shyness Was Mistaken for Rudeness
At a party, you overhear a woman you’ve just met talking to someone about how cold you seem―when you’re really only shy.
Shyness is a peculiar burden. It can make social situations uncomfortable, even painful. To make things worse, because you're so worried about what others think of you, you can come off as aloof. If you hope to change this woman's bad impression (and prevent others in the future), there are a few things you can do, right away or the next time you see her.
- See yourself as others do. The first step is “knowing that the neutrality you think you’re projecting is coming across as negative,” says Demarais. Then, although you can't expect to suddenly "change from an introvert to an extrovert," she says, you can begin to make small adjustments.
- Tune up your body language. With little changes, you can send entirely different messages: Try to smile instead of frowning, Demarais suggests, or hold a glass of wine rather than keeping your arms crossed.
- Ask questions. Obvious subjects include family, job, and hometown, but the point is to take the focus off you and get people talking about what's important to them. Ask open-ended questions instead of yes-or-no ones: not "Do you like your job?" but "Tell me about your job"; not "Who is your wife?" but "How did you meet your wife?" To feel more in control, Fee says, try to have three things prepared that you can talk about. Maybe it will always be a challenge for you to talk in social situations, but everyone loves to be listened to―and Lavington says, "you can become the world's best listener."
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