4 Ways You Make a Bad First Impression Without Even Realizing It

Group of people talking
Group of people | Source: iStock

Have you ever met someone and left the conversation feeling like you didn’t make a good impression? This isn’t something to be taken lightly, especially when it comes to making big moves at work.

Managing impressions is important if you want career success. How others perceive you is critical not only when you want a new job but also when you’re trying to move up at your current one. It’s in your best interest do everything you can to make sure you start off on the right foot with everyone you meet.

The importance of a good first impression

You only have one chance to make a great first impression. If you don’t learn the right way to present yourself to others, you could miss out on opportunities, said Ann Demarais and Valerie White in First Impressions: What You Don’t Know About How Others See You. “A first impression is our first and sometimes only opportunity to provide someone with a sense of who we are—a sense that will most likely be a lasting one. This is one of the reasons why first impressions are so crucial in terms of how others will view you and whether they will want to get to know you better,” said Demarais and White.

Once someone has an opinion of you, it is very hard to change. Even though you may try to change your ways, it can be quite difficult to convince someone to see you differently. “Though these meetings and the impressions we leave may seem fleeting, they can often have a far-reaching impact on our lives. An impression is important in the sense that there is a ‘retained remembrance,’ a lasting sense of someone or something,” said Demarais and White.

How you can ruin a first impression

A bad first impression is often made when we lack awareness of how our actions impact others. Once you learn which behaviors are off-putting to others, you can move toward making the necessary changes. Here are four ways you can rub someone the wrong way.

1. Being arrogant or rude

Man in a suit
Businessman | Source: iStock

Don’t forget the importance of humility. You may have been a big deal at your last job, but that doesn’t give you the right to push your new co-workers around or take every opportunity to show off how much knowledge and experience you have.

Workplace etiquette expert Rosalinda Oropeza Randall said it’s important to pay attention to how you treat others. “Etiquette is an attitude. Whether you are in a three-piece power suit, have an apron wrapped around your waist, or wear work boots and jeans, you have a choice to be nasty or nice … In the end, it is your professional reputation you’re building or destroying,” said Randall in Don’t Burp in the Boardroom.

2. Not listening

Woman on the phone
Rude co-worker | Source: iStock

Another key to ensuring a good impression is making sure you’re listening during conversations. It’s easy to tune out or focus on what you’re going to say next. However, it’s necessary to stay engaged when someone is speaking. You may think that nodding at all the appropriate moments is enough, but you should stay focused on what is being said and give responses that show you care about what is being communicated. Sincerely listening demonstrates respect for the speaker. Author James C. Petersen said good communication is a powerful relationship tool. “I find it to be the oil that lubricates the engine of relationships. Without it the engine seizes and grinds to a halt,” said Petersen in Why Don’t We Listen Better? Communicating & Connecting in Relationships.

3. Poor eye contact

Businessman looking down
Businessman | Source: iStock

One key to an excellent first impression is giving the appropriate amount of eye contact. When you don’t look your speaker in the eye, you communicate the message that you don’t care about what is being said. Researchers at Northeastern University found that individuals who make more eye contact are perceived as being more intelligent. Other studies have found that those who avoided eye contact were perceived as insincere or lacking conscientiousness.

4. Poor grooming

Man smelling shirt
Smelly man | Source: iStock

Your appearance is usually the first thing people notice about you. Make sure to take care of any hygiene issues and take the time to dress well. Career strategist Penelope Trunk said paying attention to your appearance can even affect other people’s perception of how competent you are at work. “… Get rid of that perfectionist streak, do a little less work, and use that time to make yourself look better. People will perceive that you’re doing better work anyway,” said Trunk.

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