Innocently making a bad first impression has happened to many of us. Not coming across as you intended can create challenges in your personal and professional life. People may mistrust you, dislike you or not even notice you. Sometimes, the fault is yours.
You know what you are feeling, what you are thinking, and you tend to believe those thoughts and emotions leaking out of every orifice of your body. You overestimate how obvious what you truly think must be and fail to recognize other people in your life are in their own bubbles, thinking the same thing about their inner worlds. This is the illusion of transparency.
Your words and behaviors are subject to interpretation. Imagine you are sitting in as an audience member and you begin staring off into space while your colleague is speaking in the meeting. Are you thinking about whether you blew the candle out before you left your house? The harsh words that you mouthed to your partner when he left you with no petrol in the car or maybe you were in deep thought about the valid example of how things need to improve in the workplace. Your colleague has no way of knowing what you are thinking in fact no one knows why you are behaving the way you are but the people around you will come to some perceived conclusion.
Rightly or wrongly, our brains are wired to respond in this way. Even more than that, people make assessments all the time unconsciously relying on your appearance, status, role and body language. Prematurely or not, the person takes it further by gathering data to make a judgement about you. The rose water colored glasses provide a lens of perception that shapes their view of you. Can they like, know and trust you?
Let me share with you 7 ways to help others draw the correct impression:
1. Project warmth
Giving the right signals early in the relationship is important. Making eye contact, smiling when appropriate and acknowledging comments, being present in conversation and listening without interruption. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Being a person of your word creates a foundation of where trust is fostered, and collaborative partnerships are formed.
“It’s pretty simple, pretty obvious: that people’s first impressions of people are really a big mistake.” – Vincent D’Onofrio
Demonstrating how instrumental you are every opportunity is gold. Go beyond any expectation, give without being asked and detach from the outcome or wanting something in return. Have a servant’s heart.
3. We-centric culture
Building an environment where we nurture an inclusive culture, creates a strong sense of ‘us’. Celebrate the strengths and achievements of others, acknowledge the values you see in others and how the shared vision belongs to you all.
4. Revise your opinion of others
Have you ever misjudged someone by letting some kind of bias get in the way? Creating stories about why someone is behaving in a way, how wronged you have been by someone or making assumptions based on the clothes someone is wearing and where they fit in the workplace. Maybe it’s time to hit the pause button as we know that there can be a wide gap between intent and impact. Adopt a curiosity lens and come with good intentions.
5. Have proper etiquette
Your body language tells a lot about you. Sloppy time keeping, or scruffiness can be taken as signs that you are not bothered and may raise questions about your general level of commitment. Be conscientious, exude professionalism and remember you are being paid to behave in a certain way.
Handling simple expectations such as punctuality, demonstrates a level of simple responsibility. Asking quality questions and putting your hand up first to offer assistance without being asked and proposing ideas allows you to start adding value right away.
Saying thank you is so underrated. It is so important to show your colleagues appreciation when they help you out. Showing gratitude lets people know that you value their time and energy.
“We don’t know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don’t always appreciate their fragility.” – Malcolm Gladwell
7. 360 feedback
It is not easy to understand how other people perceive us. We are often uncertain, confused or even oblivious of what we project. In the workplace, the lack of self-awareness can be limiting. A narrative can emerge and is often shared as advice or gossip. Getting feedback how people perceive you can be a starting point. One way can be to identify 3 key people you see you repeatedly in work situations and you know will tell it to you straight.
Ask them directly what their general perception of you is and what could you do differently that would make a difference in the workplace. Whilst receiving feedback, manage your emotions and resist the temptation to explain, defend or justify your actions. Gathering information provides an opportunity to close the gap between how people perceive you and how you want to be perceived. The choice is yours if you want to make the commitment to change.
How do you leave a great first impression? Comment below!
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