Think of a strained relationship, one that you are in right now and will need to stay in for the foreseeable future. Maybe you have a few: boss, colleague, husband, ‘frienemy.’ Strained relationships stink! They drain your energy and the interactions can cloud an otherwise sunshiny day.
Most often, when a relationship is strained, at least one of the people in the relationship has a wrong impression of the other. Over time, in such a relationship, it becomes virtually impossible not to become the person that matches the wrong impression. This lose-lose feels good to no one, and thankfully there is another option.
Wrong impressions can be changed. No matter how long someone has had the wrong impression of you, if you are willing and committed, you can apply effective techniques to change impressions in an existing relationship. There are three techniques: direct approach, indirect behavioral approach and visual cues. This three-part post will detail each of the techniques and when to use them.
When you know precisely what you did that gave the wrong impression of you, then the direct approach is best. This involves speaking directly with your contact about the issue or incident to clarify any misunderstanding. “Bob, I know that showing up late for our first pitch may have undermined your confidence in my ability to represent our team well. I completely appreciate the importance of early arrival for client engagements, and know that tardiness is easily interpreted as disrespectful, disorganized and unprofessional. There were extraordinary extenuating circumstances last Friday, but I apologize and assure you that will not happen again.”
Miscommunication is often a factor in mistaken impressions. So ask for feedback about how an incident or behavior impacted your contact. To receive feedback means to listen and not respond defensively. Eye contact, open affirming body language and say, “Thank you. I understand.” This is simple, but never easy.
The good news is that the direct approach can change an impression instantly and thereafter, it is pretty easy to reinvent the relationship. If you’re not sure what has given someone the wrong impression of you, the direct approach is useless but the indirect behavioral approach works magic! Stay tuned…