In Your Work Life
It’s completely natural to want to make a good first impression especially in an interview scenario or in any similar highly-pressurised environment. Many interviewers will take first-time jitters into consideration during the interview process. But if you have a niggling feeling that you’ve made a somewhat irredeemable first impression, chartered psychologist Fiona Murden says you should use this as a learning curve for next time: “If the interview has already been and gone, accept it, learn from it and move on. Make sure that for the next interview you are properly prepared, you know what you want to say, how you want to come across and relax into it.”
In interview situations you often have a limited amount of time so it’s important to think about what you want to say. There’s not long to tell well-rounded stories about ourselves and we end up giving out fragmented bits. “Without the whole context around a story it won’t make sense, so really think about which bits of your conversation are relevant to the job (including parts that make you human – the interviewee needs to connect with you as well as know information) and how you can communicate those,” claims Murden.
If you feel you’ve made a bad impression on your boss or work colleague. Be brave and speak up. Fiona advises asking the person outright if you’ve done something wrong and how you can make it right. You never know – you could just be paranoid.
If however, it’s a senior member of staff and you don’t feel confident enough to approach him or her, there are other ways to remedy this situation. First, try and find out a little bit more about them. “Ask colleagues if your boss has said anything about them, what they like in terms of delivery and performance and what irritates them,” says Fiona. “That way you’ll know what to focus on and what to avoid doing in the future.”
Try to get to know your fellow co-workers in an environment that isn’t so pressurised – go to work social events and chat to them about non-work-related topics. “That way you can be more yourself,” explains Fiona. Back in the office, she advises just taking a moment to consider what you’re about to say and how that might come across. “Don’t try too hard but just slow yourself down so you say the right thing. If you’re already anxious about having made a bad impression you’re likely to get yourself in a muddle and continue to do so. Your anxiety will mean you’re not presenting the best version of yourself or the most natural.”
When it comes to your ongoing attitude in the office, try to remain positive. “Work hard, do a good job and make good relationships with colleagues. Your boss will soon see what you are capable of and will likely hear this from others.”
In Your Personal Life
Whether it’s meeting the in-laws or making new friends, it’s likely you’ll be making a lot of first impressions in your personal life, too. Jivan Dempsey, Harley Street Hypnotherapist and Life Coach, says it’s possible to change a first impression in this kind of setting – but it won’t be easy. “The brain unconsciously seeks for evidence to strengthen the first impression and potentially filters out evidence to the contrary, so of course, it becomes hard to shift,” she says. “Studies indicate that you need to be at your very best with that person at least four to seven times, for around 30 minutes, in different contexts for that first impression to be wiped.”
With so much effort involved, it begs the question: why do we even really care about people’s first thoughts of us? Psychologists say our instinct to please comes from a primal place and as we have evolved, has become a social imperative.
“Many of us have a big fear of rejection and we want to be liked by others, but it’s important not to be driven by fear because it’ll only make the situation worse,” says hypnotherapist and accredited member of the General Hypnotherapy Council, Fiona Lamb. If you’re worried someone’s got the wrong first impression of you, she says addressing it swiftly is the best approach: “If you think you may have caused offence or upset towards someone, it’s always best to address it and apologise. Learn from your mistakes.”
“Make sure you meet with that person a few more times and in different settings,” adds Jivan. “Go shopping together or go out for a drink and put on the charm . If you were poorly dressed, put on something smart and take them out. If you didn’t buy a round last time and they think you’re stingy, buy the first round on another night out. It takes imagination, time and persistence, but you can change their initial thoughts of you.”
It’s also important to remember that, if you felt like you were being yourself and have done nothing that needs rectifying, then there’s a fine line between trying to change a first impression and putting yourself in the line of fire. “If you think you reacted within reason and did nothing wrong, then there is no need to justify yourself,” Fiona explains. “All you can ever do is be yourself and you can’t always please everyone.”