How to Fix a Bad First Impression

Bad first impression? Think you need a do-over but you just aren't sure how to fix a negative first impression? Public Speaker, Lisa B. Marshall, will explain steps you can take to turnaround a bad first impression.  

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #297


I lost a potential new client recently. I just wasn’t able to make a strong connection to the young man who was calling for executive coaching. Our conversation was awkward, and as soon as I hung up the phone, I knew I had made a bad first impression. At first, I was upset with myself—after all, I’m a communication expert. I should have been better prepared for our conversation. I had to make a decision—was I going to try to fix the bad impression? If so, what steps would I need to take?.

My Bad (First Impression)

Unfortunately, I can remember more than one occasion when I've made a bad first impression. One time in particular stands out—I was negotiating for a job; it was a particularly tough negotiation. The person I negotiated with told me the day I left the company that "he never liked me," and he had made my work life difficult any chance he could. He told me that he wanted me to "pay for my actions." I only realized on my last day of work that it was that initial first impression that caused my long-term career damage.

See also: How To Make Great First Impressions


Now, many, many years later, I know what went wrong. I had asked my brother for negotiating advice and followed his suggestions very closely. That is, he told me what he would say and do, and I just did that—oops!  In academic terms, I displayed too many agentic behaviors and not enough communal behaviors. In other words, I was too dominant and not warm enough; from a first impression standpoint, it is the kiss of death—even for men (although men have much more leeway in terms of the range of acceptable behaviors).

First Impressions Are Quick

When we meet someone, we very quickly and unconsciously create a first impression. In fact, in 2006, two researchers—Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov—demonstrated that it only takes 1/10th of a second to form an impression of attractiveness, trustworthiness, competence, and aggressiveness. In addition, according to their research, more time doesn’t make a difference. The 1/10th of a second’s impression merely becomes further cemented over the course of the first impression, second impression, and beyond.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.