A Harvard study revealed that it typically takes eight subsequent positive encounters to change another person’s negative opinion of you.
Recognize that changing someone’s perception will take time. As stated earlier, no matter who you are, you will inevitably make a less than positive impression on someone. While some have suggested that it can take months or even years to erase a bad first impression, a Harvard study suggests that it will take eight subsequent positive encounters to change that person’s negative opinion of you. In this context be persistent and patient.
My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
People are often full of shit. Many will bluster or drone on and on about that which they know little. They may cite one study or one source to validate their point. Be not like them.
Be well-informed. Read voraciously. Read from diverse sources from different continents to combat biases and to gain greater perspective. Think deeply and critically about what you read, see, and hear. Never swallow wholesale what someone pitches; everyone has his/her biases. Figure why they’re saying what they’re saying (e.g., are they paid to say it?), what they are omitting, what their assumptions are, etc.
One of my favorite dialogues are from the movie, The Negotiator, with Samuel Jackson and Kevin Spacey:
Now you're a history buff? I generally read histories and biographies. Don't believe everything you read. I didn't say I read just one book. I try to read all books on a subject. You know, try to get all the facts... ...and then decide for myself what really happened.
Too many people are careless with their reputation. They say or repeat nonsense and expect there to be few consequences for spouting crap. They are wrong. People of caliber notice. They, then, give wide berth to the uninformed for, except as sheep and mindless consumers, not much good come of being uninformed.
Remember, everything we say and do reflect well or poorly on us, as individuals. Everything about us communicates something about ourselves. Thus, strive to make a great impression. Speak well. Be thoughtful. Be well-mannered. Exude confidence.
Bad first impressions are extremely difficult to correct: people rarely give you eight chances to counteract that one bad first impression. Their impression of you will color their view of all you do. If they think you are smart, they will pass off a mistake as a one-off event and not let that affect their judgment of you. Conversely, if they think you are an idiot, they will think something you did well is but a fluke and you remain an idiot.
Life is hard enough as it is. Why would you choose to make it harder on yourselves by giving bad first impressions? Don’t do it.
Be well-read, thoughtful, well-mannered, and kind. Make a great first impression.
All my love, always,
P.S., all is not lost if you made a bad first impression. It just means you have a lot of hard work ahead of you to correct it.
The Do-Over: How To Correct A Bad First Impression
Last year I wrote about the nature of first impressions. We’re continually told of the importance of making positive first impressions, especially given how quickly we determine them. Some research suggests that first impressions can be so powerful that they’re weighed more heavily than fact. We know that making a good first impression is critical to success in both our jobs and personal lives, but the fact is that sometimes we flub them. Whether because of pressure, nervousness, a wrong approach, or distraction, we don’t always show up the way we intended.
The question then becomes, how do we correct a bad first impression?
Here’s the good news: impressions evolve over time. You may not get a second chance to make a first impression, but you can create an opportunity to correct one. Here are five ways to do so:
Realize that an initial impression is just that – a beginning.
We’ve all changed our opinion about someone the longer we’ve known them. Consider a colleague that you initially thought was standoffish, but after sharing a project realized was someone who just took a while to warm up.
If we look at first impressions as make-or-break opportunities, then it’s easy to make excuses for not trying to correct them. Instead, consider that impressions continuously evolve with multiple touch points. If you want someone to get to know the real you, then put yourself in front of them. Ask the person to lunch or volunteer to help them. By witnessing your skills and personality over a longer period of time, their perception of you can grow.Remember that repeated, small interactions build trust fastest.
A Harvard study revealed that it typically takes eight subsequent positive encounters to change another person’s negative opinion of you. So be persistent and play the long game.
Further, small, predictable interactions increase trust greater than a one-time splashy event. Take the pressure off yourself to knock someone’s socks off, and instead focus on demonstrating your value over an extended period of time. Strive to be consistent, follow up, and follow through.
Ask for a chance to correct.
Being straightforward can help minimize misunderstandings and reframe the discussion. Consider simply saying, “I feel like we got off on the wrong foot. Can I take you to lunch?”
Honesty can be a game changer in any relationship and goes a long way toward changing someone’s perspective. If you feel that there’s a failure to connect interpersonally, provide your view of the situation and then vet it with the other person. Admit what caused your behavior that may have led to a wrong impression. If you have a family issue that caused you to be disengaged during a meeting, then say so. If the other party is as open minded as most people hope to be (more on this next), then they should give you the benefit of the doubt.
Remind the other person how open-minded he or she is.
Many people have what psychologists call an egalitarian goal, which means that they work hard to be open minded and fair in their interactions with others. Research shows that when you remind someone of their fairness, they will more conscientiously work to live up to that assessment.Practically speaking, this means that after a less than stellar first interaction, you can send a follow up email and compliment the other person on their open mindedness or fairness in evaluating people. Or recognize how their perspicacity must be a real asset in their job. Reminding the other person of their egalitarian goal will help them remember to be more open minded in their perceptions of you.
Ask them for advice – on anything.
According to Wharton School professor Adam Grant, asking for advice is a smart way to be influential. Grant discusses one study in which researchers asked people to negotiate the possible sale of commercial property. When the sellers asked the buyers for advice on how to meet their goals, 42% were able to come to an agreement that made both sides happy.
“Asking for advice encouraged greater cooperation and information sharing, turning a potentially contentious negotiation into a win-win deal. Studies demonstrate that across the manufacturing, financial services, insurance and pharmaceuticals industries, seeking advice is among the most effective ways to influence peers, superiors, and subordinates,” Grant writes.
If you feel that you didn’t make a positive impression, follow up and ask the other person for advice on some aspect of work. This also allows you to get in front of the person again and make a new impression. Psychologist Robert Cialdini says that by asking for advice, you suddenly “have the basis of an interaction.” Advice can always be returned, as can a thank you.
Comment here or @kristihedges.
Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others. She blogs at kristihedges.com.