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Can You Overcome a Bad First Impression in Your Career?

Posted by Brian Spence on Jan 24, 2018 8:00:00 AM

CareerFirst impressions are intense, powerful, and memorable. It literally takes seconds to form a flashbulb first impression of someone else. Snap judgments can be good, bad, or unfair. They often impact how you treat others. These gut feelings help you discern whether a political candidate is trustworthy. Initial judgments also determine how others treat you and are critical to success. Hiring managers use them to decide whether you are right for a job. These intense feelings can even cause you to fall in love at first sight.

People Quickly Make First Impressions

Quick assessments are hard-wired into our instinct to keep us safe and recognize danger. Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov found most people quickly form first impressions. These 30-second judgments are based on appearance. Attractiveness determined whether strangers seemed competent, friendly, likable, and trustworthy. The researchers learned that longer exposure to the person didn't alter initial impressions. It only confirmed that their first judgments were correct. 

Is it possible to change a person's initial assessment of you? Lifehack Communications Expert Anna Chui says yes. Here are several tips to override first-impression bias.

Gossip Impacts Our Impressions of Other People

Chui says people not only make first impressions based on physical attractiveness. Individuals also form judgments based on opinions and gossip. Third-party stories can impact another person's about us before we even meet them.

Give compliments. Individuals should give meaningful, genuine praise to override another person's skepticism about you. Commendations must be real. Exaggerations will only create suspicion about your true motives. Choose your compliments wisely.

Have a third party spread good gossip about you. Another way that you can override first impressions is to have others say nice things about you. Here are a few rules about third-party compliments.

  1. Don't force someone to talk about you. Chui says that you should never force another person to speak highly of you. Praise should be heartfelt, genuine compliments from a friend.

  2. No superficial compliments. The expert explains that praise should be based on your personality. Are you helpful, friendly, or funny? Friends should never speak about your outward appearance, financial status, career, or superficial aspects.

  3. Tell the truth. Third parties should never exaggerate your positive attributes. All compliments must be truth-based.

If you are interested in learning more about this and related topics, visit the Career Advice section of our blog.

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