How to Bounce Back From a Bad First Impression
Tips on how to turn around a less-than-stellar first encounter.
You think you're being a fabulous conversationalist, only to discover later that your blind date/job interviewer/fellow partygoer/ child's new friend's mom found you aggressive.
"One person's assertiveness can be another one's aggressiveness," says Susan Fee, a licensed professional counselor and the author of Positive First Impressions: 83 Ways to Establish Confidence, Competence, and Trust ($5, susanfee.com). "But the true definition of aggressive communication is violating the rights of others." Monopolizing conversations, not letting others speak, interrupting―if you're guilty of these violations, you have a few good options.
- Do better next time. "We all make these mistakes," says Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated advice column Ask Amy. "And because we realize that, we tend to give people a couple of passes before giving up on them." So when next you meet that mom who thought you were pushy, hang back, let her direct the flow of conversation, and show that you are interested in what she has to say. Prove that your misstep was a fluke.
- Cast your behavior in a positive light. With a bad job interview, you may never get a second chance unless you act. Send a friendly follow-up note, saying something like "I hope I didn't come across as too aggressive. I'm just very excited about this opportunity," advises Camille Lavington, the author of You've Only Got Three Seconds: How to Make the Right Impression in Your Business and Social Life ($15, amazon.com). But keep it brief and easy.
- Stop pretending you're something you're not. That's usually at the bottom of this kind of behavior, says Tom Jaffee, who, as CEO of a nationwide dating service, has seen plenty of it. Consider the case of Clark Kent: No matter how hard he tries to act like a regular Joe, there's something strange and off-putting about him―because he's hiding something! "Your best hope is to be honest with the person," says Jaffee. "Admit you were just trying to make a good impression." And next time be yourself, and be proud of who you are.
- Let it go. Cut your losses, but let the experience be a wake-up call, a reminder to temper your behavior in the future.