The final word on making an impression: Reinventing that negative first impression

If a first impression makes such an impact, can a negative one be turned around? Well, of course the first impression can’t be changed, but the message I have conveyed about myself can be reinvented, but this is a little harder.

Do you remember a time when you tried so hard to impress your new colleagues that it backfired?

Did the New Years Eve party photos make it to a friend’s public Facebook page?

Maybe you bumped into someone when you were having a bad day?

Or maybe, just culturally, things are done differently.

I started Year 10 at a new school. It was the late ‘70s, I came from the beaches to the ‘burbs and it was the era of ‘Puberty Blues’ (and I came from Cronulla). Blonde, tanned and the shortest school uniform you were likely to see. Regardless of reputation, it was just how you dressed when you lived at the beach. And as what normally happens when you start a new school, you cycle through a few groups of friends until you find the ones that you feel comfortable with and they feel comfortable with you.

After a few months, with a great bunch of friends, one candidly said to me, “you’re not at all what I thought you were like when you first arrived at our school.”

These things do happen, even unknowingly, and can put us on a negative footing. I’ve heard it said that it takes 12 good impressions to erase one bad. So before you go counting interactions and schmoozing that new boss, co-worker or potential mother-in-law, here is a more helpful way to look at it.

Build your track record.

I heard a speaker, a number of years ago make a distinction between being judgemental and looking at a person’s track record.

It can be slow, it doesn’t involve schmoozing, it is about being yourself and building the correct reputation through friendliness, having a can-do attitude and applying the four key elements of a first impression:

Visual impression

Body language

Vocal usage


It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. Then maybe someone will say to you, “you’re not at all what I thought you were like when we first met.”

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