First impressions are a large factor in someone’s opinion of you. Even if someone holds a negative opinion of you, (based on a first impression or any other impression you’ve given her or him) you do not necessarily need to change it. Some people will have a negative opinion of you no matter what you do; that is more their issue than yours.
If the impression wasn’t good and you’d like to try to overcome it, whether or not that is likely to succeed will depend on a few things.
Can an Impression be Changed? Factors to Consider
- The intensity of the formed impression. Lets say the issue is you said something hurtful to someone you, not intentionally to hurt them but just because you weren’t thinking before it flew out of your mouth. Hey we’ve all been there. Having done that act alone with only that person there to hear it would not be as intense as having done it at a party where many people overheard it and laughed. The latter would be much harder to overcome, because the pain your comment caused was intensified by the level of ridicule the recipient felt.
- The other person’s beliefs in personal change. If you are trying to change the impression you made on someone and that person doesn’t believe that people can change or improve, you may be unsuccessful. For example, if you are assigned a group project in one of your classes and the first time or two your group meets, you are late, absent, distracted, and not pulling your weight, you’d have a bad impression to overcome. If the other people in your group don’t believe people can change, it will be challenging to convince them otherwise.
- The variance level of your new behavior. To overcome a negative impression, you will need the person who holds the impression to witness a different (maybe even opposite) behavior of yours. So in the previous example of the group project, showing up on time and texting your friends less often will probably not be enough to change their minds. Showing up on time, avoiding ANY distraction, and going above and beyond by doing even more of the share of work than expected would be more likely to successfully change their earlier assessment of you.
You can’t control others’ beliefs in the ability of people to change, but you can control your variance level of your new behavior to the previous one you are trying to overcome. And you can’t control the intensity of the situation in which the negative first impression was made, but you can control the lengths you are willing to go to in order to replace that first impression with a new view of you.
When you decide you want to try to overcome a bad first impression, there are strategies you can use to help you be successful. To see those strategies, click here.