5 Ways to Reverse a Bad First Impression
Hate at first sight leads to happily ever after. It's an old, familiar plot in literature (think Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet) and movies (Woody and Buzz Lightyear). But if you get off on the wrong foot with someone in the real world, can you turn things around? Five experts say yes.
Make a Wisecrack
We've all goofed while meeting someone. When that happens, you need to lower the tension in the atmosphere and make the other
person feel comfortable. Self-deprecating humor does the trick. For instance, if you forget to shut off your cell phone before
a job interview and someone calls, smile and lightly acknowledge your silly ringtone to the employer. You'll have turned an
embarrassing slipup into a moment that shows off your confidence. I know one man who went to leave an interview, turned the
doorknob, and walked right into the closet instead of the hallway. He laughed at himself, and others joined in with him. Instantly
everyone was put at ease and distracted from his mistake.
Lydia Ramsey is an international business-etiquette expert and the author of Manners That Sell: Adding the Polish That Builds Profit ($19, amazon.com). She lives in Savannah.
My research has shown that women and men tend to orient their bodies differently when talking to each other. Women typically
face one another and look steadily at each other's faces; they feel like this shows that they're friendly. But when faced
directly, men tend to feel that they're being closed in on. Men generally sit at angles or even parallel to each other, only
occasionally glancing at each other's faces, which may seem rude to women. If you sense that you've made a bad impression
with someone of the opposite gender, engage him differently the next time: Change the way you're positioned and notice whether
you're maintaining your gaze or looking at him only now and then—it may alter how he thinks of you.
Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., is a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., and the author of You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation ($13, amazon.com).
Let Your Guard Down
Most of the people I advise lead very busy work lives, so they are often preoccupied. I've had clients brush off an important
person or use a brusque tone with someone they've just met just because they were in a hurry. I encourage clients to proactively
follow up and say to the person they rubbed the wrong way, "I was distracted because of a looming deadline. I'm sorry about
our last run-in, and I would love to grab a coffee. I want you to know how happy I am to meet you." People appreciate the
authenticity of an apology and the personalized attention that comes with it.
Ora Shtull is an executive coach in New York City for senior leaders at Fortune 500 companies and the author of The Glass Elevator: A Guide to Leadership Presence for Women on the Rise ($16, amazon.com).