Monday, January 14, 2013

The #1 way to make a bad first impression

I recently heard a speaker say it takes fifteen good impressions to fix one bad first impression.

I don't know about you, but I believe that 100%. 

And recently I have noticed this one thing people do frequently to make a bad first impression. I must warn you, once you know this, you will start seeing it everywhere.

Are you ready? The #1 way to make a bad first impression, every time, is to open with:

unsolicited advice. 

In my book and in much of my networking advice, I explain that what works best to establish a first impression is to tell someone how much you admire them, why you care about their work, or how much you appreciate what they do. 

That tactic has gotten me and the dozens of other students I've mentored meetings with executives from the White House, Disney, the NBA, The New York Time, etc. 

But you know what never works? 

Yep, you guessed it: unsolicited advice. Which is, in short, telling someone what you think they need to change, how they need to do something better, or why you know something they don't. 

Have you ever posted something casual on Facebook and had that one random person give you some kind of advice or feedback when you weren't asking? It's awkward. It's uncomfortable. And, regardless of the correctness of the advice, it gives you a bad feeling towards that person.

You don't want to be that person. 

If you're number one concern is being right, putting forth your opinion to everyone, and making sure you are telling people what they need to do, then, well, unsolicited advice just might be for you. Just know that you will sacrifice the ability to network effectively.

When someone gives advice to a person who didn't ask, it's frankly a bit insulting. There is no way around it. Unless it's in the context of a mentorship relationship, professor-student relationship, boss-employee relationship, or close family/friend relationship where you already have a strong foundation of trust, it's an instant relationship-ruiner.

Especially when it comes to first impressions.

So if you ever feel the need to give someone advice that they didn't ask you for, ask yourself these questions before you proceed:

1) Do I have a strong foundation of trust with this person?
2) If I don't say what I'm about to say will this person get into serious harm?
3) Is this person going to appreciate me giving this advice? 

If the answers are yes, go ahead. But if they're not, just say no to unsolicited advice.

(And, to be honest, even my husband and I joke about the unsolicited advice we give each other, because it still drives us crazy!)

Instead, the best way to build good first impressions in your networking and personal relationships is to think about how you can give unsolicited positive feedback. Nothing will endear people to you more. 

Overachievers Action Item
Think about how you feel when someone gives you a compliment on Facebook. Today instead of just "liking" your favorite pictures and comments on your newsfeed, comment and compliment generously. And then watch what happens. :)

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