Have someone you’re trying to impress?
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re about to meet someone important to you for the first time like a potential boss or first date. That or you already did and… it didn’t go so well.
In either case, you want to up your game and find out how you can make a better first impression.
Well, lucky us, psychologists have been studying this very thing for years and have a lot of valuable insights to share, most of which are based on what’s referred to in psychology as the principles of impression formation.
Making a strong first impression is as important as ever, especially when meeting face-to-face.
– Joseph Abboud
So, whether you’re getting ready to set out to an interview, go on a date, or meet your significant other’s parents for the first time, here are five surprising reasons you’re making a bad first impression and how to fix it, all based on modern psychology.
1. You’re trying too hard
Welp, that settles it. Not really, but it’s pretty important.
At first, this might seem to defeat the entire point of trying to make a better first impression. So, you’re making a bad first impression because you’re trying too hard. So, stop trying?…
However, while true, that’s pretty general advice that you can’t do much with. Clearly, you have to try. So, what is trying too hard? Fortunately, recent research has shed light on what behaviors turn people off when first meeting someone and what to do instead.
One study found that being less vocal and a bit more reserved can actually help endear others to you, making a better first impression.
The idea is that when you try too hard, if you’re overly extroverted, energetic, and try to push the conversation along, you might tend to overtalk and not leave the other person with much chance to speak themselves.
Or, at the very least, if that’s not your problem then you might just be a bit too energetic, leaving the person feeling fatigued after that first conversation. Either way, they’re left with a bad first impression of you.
This doesn’t mean you should lie about who you are if you’re that way. Instead, it means you should watch out for overwhelming the person as far as your energy and conversation habits in that first meeting.
2. You’re too quick to reveal your personal history
Another reason you might be making bad first impressions is you’re too quick to reveal your personal business.
When you first meet someone, you have no idea who they are, what their life is like, or what kind of things have happened in their past. Anything you say about yourself might touch a nerve in the other person, so it’s best to move slowly until you’ve developed some kind of bond with the other person.
After a while, it’s okay to open up and doing so can help strengthen a relationship. However, remember, we’re talking first impressions here. The other person doesn’t know you and, because of how people are, will be much quicker to judge you. So tread carefully and don’t spill any details about your own life that might rub them the wrong way.
3. You assume others agree with everything you say
Have you ever met someone who spoke to you as if they just knew you agreed with everything they say? It’s pretty common, possibly a part of our nature to assume so until proven wrong, so you may be that way to some degree without noticing it.
The main way we do this is through physical appearance or setting. You see how someone is dressed or observe where you’re meeting them and assume they’d agree with your political views or personal beliefs, so you don’t hold back in opening up about your own opinions and it backfires.
People we’ve forged a bond with are often tolerant of our differing views. But when you first meet someone, diving into a touchy subject like beliefs or politics is a huge red flag that’s better left untouched.
4. You pry into their personal business
Some, upon hearing that it’s better in conversation to ask questions as opposed to talking about yourself endlessly, end up swinging too far to the other side of the spectrum. The result is that you end up interrogating the other person and make them feel almost violated by prying into their business.
However, the worst case scenario is when you pry into their business and strike a sensitive spot. Similar to opening up too readily about your own business and how that can inadvertently offend another person as it relates to themselves and their own life, when you pry into their business you might accidentally touch on something like the memory of a deceased loved one, mental health issue, past tragedy, trauma, deeply-held belief or something else and spoil the entire meeting.
It’s okay if that first conversation moves into sensitive territory, however, stay away from prying into their personal business and let the other person open up if they feel comfortable.
5. You make yourself appear gullible or too trusting
When meeting someone for the first time, we’re quick to judge them (and they us). Sometimes, this can’t be helped because there are myriad of factors that influence our choices in the midst of a conversation. However, you can worsen the situation by making yourself appear gullible or too trusting.
By revealing sensitive details about something, be it a project at work, a family member’s health condition, or something else, you may appear to be too trusting which makes you seem easily tricked and too gullible.
You might think you’d never do something like this in a conversation, however, especially for introverts, what sounds good in theory is often difficult to execute in practice socially.
Sometimes, we get nervous and reveal information to impress or create a connection with another person. The problem with this is we often have no idea we just created a bad first impression this way because it’s one of the harder missteps to notice.
Instead, practice tempering your emotions and try not to force the flow of the conversation any which way.