Getting a Second Chance After Making a Bad First Impression

Tips on making amends and successful first interactions

I consider myself a friendly person who gets along with people. I am pretty intuitive as well, I can read people like a book. However, I’m also admittedly a stubborn person. If someone really rubs me the wrong way, I have a hard time forgetting that first meeting. Chances are, it probably made my skin crawl. Since I am an empath, I find unpleasant interactions very disturbing. However, I believe in giving second chances. Especially if the person is willing to redeem themselves and take responsibility for their behavior.

Studies show that we make snap judgments about other people. 80% of first impressions are based on two subconscious questions: Can I trust this person? Is this person capable?^1

When you meet someone for the first time, you are both analyzing each other. We are observing each other’s behavior to see if there is mutual respect. We are noticing their appearance, the way they listen, and especially how they respond in conversation. Essentially, we are trying to figure out if this person is someone we want to be around again. On average, this process takes about twenty-seven seconds!²

Personally, first impressions are all about the “vibes” I get from someone. That’s my intuition as an empathetic person. If someone has a “negative energy” or is very abrasive, it makes me see red flags everywhere! I have met people and could tell they had a lot of pain inside them. Some people are distrustful of others and wear this on their sleeve. Intuition is a powerful thing and we all have it innately.

I met someone a few years ago who I knew would be in my life for a long time. This person was loud, obnoxious, and very unfriendly during this interaction. Although years later, we have managed to make our situation work, I still find myself recognizing these traits in her. I hope one day that my opinion will change but it’s going to take some work on her part. I have opened myself up to the idea of changing my perspective, but I need to see results on her end or the first impression will stick. This is not because I am stubborn, it’s due to the abrasive way she presented herself. This is her responsibility to correct.

We have all met someone and questioned if we “put our best foot forward”. As I stated above, I believe in second chances and I have met people and they didn’t give a very good first impression. Then upon engaging with them again, they changed my mind. Fortunately, I ended up being friends with them after. They weren’t who I thought they were. I’m sure that this has happened to me as well. Although I consider myself to be friendly, I’m also an awkward person and this tends to put people off. I can come off as aloof, but I’m only observing this person before fully engaging.

What should you do if you said or did something offensive or inappropriate when meeting someone for the first time?

As we know, communication is a two-way street. If this is a person you really want in your life or need to impress (boss, colleague) you should apologize. Particularly, if you did or said something inappropriate or misrepresented yourself in some way. Don’t let pride get in the way of your career goals or personal relationships! Keep in mind, an apology doesn’t make you look weak, it takes courage to admit when you’re wrong and ask for a second chance.

For the most part, people want to get along with others and second chances happen in life all of the time. A couple weeks ago, a good friend of mine told me she has become good friends with a woman she didn’t like upon their first meeting years ago. It turned out she was a shy person and my friend mistook her for being unfriendly. Since my friend was open to giving her a second chance, she made a new companion!

So how do we make the best first impression? I put together a few tips to ensure a successful first interaction:

  • If this is a business meeting, dress for the occasion. You can never be too overdressed. There is a physical component to first impressions, especially in the business world.
  • Shake the person's hand, make eye contact, and smile.
  • Be on time! Nothing says “I value your time” like being prompt.
  • Avoid alienating people with rude, abrasive, or overly opinionated comments. Trust me, these statements are very hard to come back from.
  • Utilize small talk or even compliment the person. If you choose the compliment route, make sure you mean it. Small talk can include commenting on the weather or your surroundings.
  • Listen to what the person is saying and respond appropriately.
  • Do not try too hard to impress this person. That will only put undue pressure on you and it will come off as fake.
  • Never pretend to be someone you are not. People will see right through this. If you are a good person, your inner light will shine through.
  • Keep in mind, if the other person is having a bad day or is cynical, your first impression may fall flat regardless. In that case, you need not correct anything. This is their own issue and you did your best.

I do believe in second chances. I believe first impressions can be reversed if the subsequent interactions are pleasant and both parties are on board. As long as the person tries to redeem themselves and the offended person is willing to change their mind, second chances are always possible!

“We’re given second chances every day of our life. We don’t usually take them, but they’re there for the taking.” -Andrew M. Greeley

[1] Gustavo Razzetti (unknown date) Don’t Worry About First Impressions https://liberationist.org/dont-worry-about-your-first-impression/

[2] Peter Economy (December 10, 2019) According to This Truly Surprising New Study, You Have Just 27 Seconds to Make a First Impression https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/according-to-this-truly-surprising-new-study-you-have-just-27-seconds-to-make-a-first-impression.html

Wife, mother, and researcher of a myriad of subjects. I love to write about anything and everything! Writer for The Startup, Better Marketing, & The Ascent👊

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store