You already know nothing is more valuable than a good first impression. It takes less than 10 seconds for someone to form an opinion. What should you do if you arrived late, stuck your foot in your mouth or just weren’t feeling like your usual self during that first encounter? Should you throw in the towel and accept your fate? Absolutely not!
Even though research supports the difficulty in overcoming a negative first impression, you can take action to up the odds of getting back in someone’s good graces.
First, take ownership of what happened as quickly as possible. So, you were late. Own it. “I didn’t allow enough time to get here and in the process inconvenienced you.” Miss a deadline for getting materials to a new department? Own it. “I’m certain my lack of preparedness made it difficult for you and I apologize.” Assumed incorrectly and spoke out of turn? Own it. “The comment I made was inappropriate.”
Second, reassure others with next steps. In the above examples, the follow-up sentence could be, “I’ll be certain it doesn’t happen again.” You can be more detailed by saying, “I’ll be certain to leave earlier next time, give myself more lead time on this project or check my facts before speaking.” This phraseology shows others your commitment to making things right and opens the door to seeing you in a new light.
What should you do if you didn’t speak up immediately? Take a risk and ask for a second chance.
For example, say you were granted a job interview for the position of your dreams, but weren’t feeling like yourself that day. You know you didn’t leave the interviewer with the best impression of your skills. So pick up the phone and speak directly to the interviewer, saying, “I wasn’t feeling like myself yesterday. I didn’t even mention that I organized the off-site conference for more than 400 people, which I received an award.” (Or state a specific accomplishment that aligns with this particular job.) Given this situation, would you please consider giving me a second opportunity? I guarantee I will make it worth your time.”
Or maybe you got off on the wrong foot with a colleague. Start over and ask them to coffee or lunch.
No matter what follows, your actions reflect an individual who deserves a second look.