A new study in the Social and Personality Psychology Compass found that our biggest enemy when it comes to making a good first impression is ourselves. In an effort to make others like and admire us, we talk about our accomplishments and skills. We don't realize that our intent to make a favorable impression is actually backfiring! Researchers have discovered that "narcissism and a failure to account for the perspective of others were the repeated threads in our self-sabotaging presentation tactics." And the worst part, is that we do this and then wonder why others tend to back away from us. The good news is that there are four simple tactics we should all avoid when trying to make that good first impression.
1. Humblebragging. It's interesting to note that society puts such an emphasis on sincerity that we all tend to prefer outright braggers to humblebraggers. Research has backed this up. So what is humblegragging? That's when someone likes to come across as a "hot mess" who just by accident succeeded at doing something impressive. They think this makes them come across as endearing. It doesn't. When we disguise our accomplishment in a complaint or with humility, we wind up sounding insincere. It's been shown that we're better off not trying to conceal our intent; that sounds false and then others react to us negatively.
2. Backhanded compliments. These sound fine, at first, that is until you hear the ulterior motive underneath. An example might be, "You're doing a good job...for a beginner." This kind of sounds like a compliment, right? But underneath it, the phrase "for a beginner" is actually meant to make the other person feel inferior to the speaker. The compliment, then, is really just a put-down. Narcissists are known for frequently deploying these backhanded compliments. They are either unwilling, or unable, to take into account the feelings of others. It's no wonder, then, that other people don't like this kind of behavior!
3. Hypocrisy. Researchers have found that we all tend to judge hypocrites more harshly. Why? Because we hate lying so much. So think twice before you decide to exaggerate how big that fish you caught on vacation really was. How to avoid hypocrisy? Keep your word and then be able to back up whatever you are boasting about.
4. Hubris. No one reacts well to success stories that depend on putting someone else down. Our negative reaction to hubris isn't because we all believe in a fair and just world where everyone is treated equally. "Researchers believe our reactions are a selfish, self-defense mechanism against the threat that the person with low opinions of others may have a low opinion of us." Hubris sparks hostility and even antagonism.
A bad first impression is nearly impossible to reverse or undo. Making a good first impression will set the tone for all relationships that follow. And the easiest way to make that all-important positive impression is to just be yourself; open, honest, friendly, and conscious of the other guy's feelings. It'll win you more friends and help you get ahead in both your professional career and in all your social interactions.