Work Relationships

8 Ways to Make a Terrible First Impression

Written by Peter Jones

You know how important the first impression is. That’s why it can be really easy to screw it up—even if you only screw it up by trying too hard. Here are a few ways to really make a belly flop of your first impression. Study them and make sure to pivot in another direction!

1. Try Too Hard

We know you want to be memorable. So do they. If you’re too witty, too eager, too high energy; if you finish your interviewer’s sentences or jump in too quickly with a personal anecdote or some sidebar to explain some aspect of your resume; if you’re generally just too RIGHT THERE rather than making an effort to listen to your conversation partner rather than perform… then you’re trying too hard. And whomever you’re talking too is probably more tired than intrigued.

2. Being Too “Different”

If you’re laboring to point out your personal quirks in a transparent effort to set yourself apart from the crowd, you might actually be doing yourself a disservice. There’s nothing wrong with being average or above average. You don’t have to shout how unique you are at every conversational turn.

3. Bad Body Language

How you carry yourself matters, too. Try not to cross your arms across your chest. Make sure to smile and make eye contact—as failure to do both can make you seem hostile and untrustworthy. And whatever you do, be respectful of others’ personal space. Don’t be the space invader.

4. Inappropriateness

Don’t gossip. You’ll come off looking terrible. And don’t make rude or inappropriate jokes—particularly off-color ones or potentially political or bigoted ones either. No one will want to get to know you better if you’re rude or racist.

5. Rudeness

If you keep checking your watch—or worse, staring at your phone the entire time, then you deserve to make a bad impression. Grow up. Put your devices down and be present for the five minutes it takes to make a good impression.

6. Oversharing

Don’t try to forge instant intimacy by sharing all the intimate details of your life. Your personal history should stay at least a little personal for the first 10 minutes of a new connection. And you never know when you might put your foot in your mouth because of not knowing anything about the other person’s personal history. Also, you and this person have literally just met. How can you be sure they’re trustworthy?

7. Nosiness

On the other hand, don’t ask a bunch of nosy personal questions to try and find out that other person’s intimate personal history. Let that stuff happen naturally over time as the relationship builds. If you even make it out of the conversation with a relationship to build, that is.

8. Steamrolling

This includes filling every silence with chatter… and assuming the other person agrees with you about everything you say, and then ranting on and on about it. Take a moment to step back and give your conversation partners some space to speak. Try listening for once and don’t be too stingy to relinquish your spot in the driver’s seat.

About the author

Peter Jones