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Second Chance: Overcoming a Negative First Impression

We all know how important first impressions are. In the world of business, you always need to have your best foot forward. Whether you’re networking or delivering a high-stakes presentation, a positive impression is the first step to achieving the outcome you desire. As they say, “your never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”

So what happens when you commit a misstep? Is there really no way to recover from a negative first impression?

We can’t escape the fact that people make mistakes. We’re all susceptible to committing errors and oversights. Maybe you told a joke that didn’t sit well with your client. Maybe you called the key decision maker by the wrong name. Maybe you tripped on your way up to the podium. Whatever the scenario, there are still ways to save the situation.

Here are a few tips for overcoming a negative first impression:

Apologize as soon as you can

It seems easier to ignore the issue, but doing so will only make the situation worst. Don’t sweep your mistakes under the proverbial rug. Face it head on with an apology. Apologize as soon as you realize your mistake. Acknowledge your fault and immediately say you’re sorry.

Show your sincerity

Keep in mind that a simple “sorry” won’t be enough to fix the situation. Your apology needs to be genuine and sincere. Show that you understand your mistake and that you’re to own up to it. Don’t be defensive or shift the blame on anything else. Always own up to you did (or didn’t do) and avoid a “non apology.”

There’s no need to keep apologizing

You should also be mindful that there’s danger to apologizing too much. Dwelling on your mistakes will only bring attention to it. Apologizing once is enough. The next step is to move forward and fix the negative impression you made. Continue with your pitch or presentation, taking extra care to watch your behavior. Try to regain your confidence and focus on achieving your goals.

Don’t dwell on your mistakes

With that said, the best way to move forward from a bad situation is to shake it off. Don’t assume that others think the worst of you because of a simple oversight. You’ll be surprised to learn how understanding other people are. In fact, studies quoted by About Money show that slight mistakes might even increase your likability. There’s no need to worry as long as you’re sincere and you work hard to correct your mistakes.

Show a bit of humor

Certain situations are better addressed with a self-deprecating joke. If your faux pas is something as minor as losing your balance on stage, use humor to deflect the tension and make everyone laugh. Keep your jokes focused on yourself so you don’t risk offending others. However, you should also use this technique sparingly as it might hurt how the audience sees you. Here’s a quick guide on how you can effectively incorporate humor to your presentations.


While first impressions matter, last impressions also hold a lot of weight. Don’t let a few missteps overshadow your hard work or the message you want to deliver.


Featured Image: Jase Curtis via Flickr

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