To take action or to simply let it be… are you wondering how you can correct a wrong first impression? First, I want you to know that everybody makes a “wrong” first impression every once in a while; it’s only human! Instead of dwelling on it, let’s talk about how you can take action. It’s important to reflect on what went wrong in your encounter. Maybe you felt you could have represented yourself better or shown up in a more confident or approachable way. But maybe the way your impression went wrong was that you did or said something offensive and fear repercussions to your reputation. In this case, your impression could have impacted yourself AND others.
Once you have identified who has been impacted by this potentially “wrong” encounter, decide whether or not you want to take action. If you decide not to take action, instead, take the time to hone in on your ideal appearance, behavior, and communication methods in first encounters. With this, be aware that you may have left an unconscious bias with those who you’ve left a potentially negative impression with, and therefore it may take you longer to recover from.
If you would rather take the initiative to mend the impact made by your first impression, I’d like to walk you through an 8-step process to follow.
1. Forgive yourself
First, forgive yourself! We all make mistakes, and we all have “off” days. The way you go about making right by those affected and growing from your fault says more about you as a person and a professional than your original mistake.
2. Do your homework
Once you have let go of the self-judgment that is holding you back, do your homework! Analyze the situation that you found yourself in and understand how the other parties involved may feel. Ask yourself some tough questions about what exactly happened, the consequences, and how it could have gone better. This can help lead you through understanding the details of what went wrong in the encounter.
Now that you are clear on the mistakes you may have made, apologize! The trick here is to actually BE sorry. Express your regret around the situation with honesty and humility. This is the first step to gaining back trust and accepting forgiveness.
4. Own your mistakes
Now claim the blame! Own the mistakes you made and take responsibility for your actions. It is very important not to get defensive and make excuses. By being transparent and admitting to your faults, you will continue building trust and showing those around you that you do not operate from the ego.
5. Do what you say you are going to do
This will cue you up for step 5, to share what you have learned and how your actions will be different going forward. An apology without action is manipulation of trust. So be sure that you are able to follow through on what you say you are going to do.
Now that you have said your part, listen. Take in what others might have to say in response to your ask of forgiveness. Resist getting defensive and justifying your behavior to their response as they have the right to express their disappointment or point of view of the situation.
7. Be patient
Maybe the hardest step for many: patience. Regaining the trust of others takes patience, perseverance, and most of all, time. It is unreasonable to expect others to immediately regain trust in you. Allow them the time they need, or you risk undermining the process.
8. Let go
Finally, you must let go of the experience at a certain point. This encounter does not define you and often will linger in your thoughts longer than it stays with others. Learn from your mistakes, but do not allow them to consume you.
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