You’ve finally landed an interview for your dream job. You try to put your best foot forward, but end up making a bad first impression. Everything seems to go wrong: you arrive late and trip on the stairs. Then you call the boss the wrong name and forget the answers to her questions. All in all, you leave a pretty bad impression. Is all lost? How can you recover from a bad impression? Fixing a bad impression is hard, but not impossible. Try these steps to attempt to repair your image.
- Overlook It
We tend to judge ourselves more harshly than others. So when you commit a faux pas, remember others may not notice it or they may choose to give you grace for the situation. Be willing to forgive yourself for the mistake and move on. Sometimes, if you continue your interaction with the person without referencing the mistakes, things can still turn out in the end.
Of course, there are some situations that just cannot be overlooked. If you are talking to a superior at work or a potential date you would like to impress, it is sometimes necessary to humble yourself and apologize in order to extend the relationship and recover from the bad first impression. “I’m sorry” goes a long way.
For example, say you made an offhand remark offensive to people with a disability, only to discover the other person’s wife has a handicap. In that case, you should immediately apologize and choose another topic of conversation or excuse yourself from the situation if needed. If the person in the situation was deeply offended, it may be necessary to apologize later in person or with a written apology note. In either case, make it short and sincere without a list of excuses. It may be prudent to send a small gift along with the note.
If you do happen to have an excuse for a minor mistake (too tired from driving a long trip, etc.), you may mention it and explain the event was not typical of your character. Be careful with this though. If the situation is particularly delicate, you do not want to belabor your lack of judgment; otherwise, the impression you leave could be further damaged. It may be better to let it go and approach the person again after some time to gauge his response.
- Show Your True Self
Like a stubborn stain on your shirt, bad impressions take a while to remove. Our brains make snap impressions, but they can stick for a while. If you showed up late to an interview and made a bad impression, but somehow still landed the job, you will want to show up early on the first day of work and go all out. However, doing it once is not enough. You’ll have to continue arriving ahead of time for quite a while. But don’t give up. Eventually, your boss may notice that you are punctual and know it is your true nature. Even if your work isn’t seen, you know you did your best to show who you are.
- Develop a Relationship with Trust
In order for another person to know your true nature, you need to develop a relationship. This involves considerable and constant effort and is especially important if you have gotten off on the wrong footing. Let the other person know you are reliable by engaging in a project or activity together. Working alongside each other can impress the other person with your strength of integrity and work ethic. If you have to write a report together about a competing company, take the initiative to divide the research so that the other person can fulfill the assignment handily. Do the rest to your best ability. Show deference to her judgment on matters so as to demonstrate respect for her. When she does come to you with a question, she will have to trust your research in order to combine it with her own and complete the project together. Doing this shows that you are a reliable employee who is also a team player.
- Learn from the Mistake
While you can fix bad impressions, there are some cases that are just too damaged to repair. In those situations, ask yourself if there is anything you could have done to prevent the problem? If you overslept for an interview because you stayed up late watching movies the night before, then knock off that behavior for the next time. Yes, the loss will sting for a bit, but you can bounce back from it if you learn from your mistakes.
Recovering from a bad impression is not impossible; it just takes work to know how and when to correct your mistakes. Take stock of the situation and decide on a plan; then apply it to the best of your ability, or have the courage to make more positive impressions with other opportunities. Best of luck!