First Impressions

I recently walked into a huge office complex for the first time and stopped for a moment looking for the building directory. I heard a voice behind me say, “Do you have a problem?” I didn’t think he could be talking to me but when he repeated the words, I realized he was – he was asking me if I had a problem.

I was stunned at his choice of words.  He must have thought he was being helpful, but he made me feel I’d done something wrong.  I certainly didn’t feel welcomed.

I politely explained that this was my first time in this building and I was a bit unsure of where I was to go. What I really wanted to say was no, I didn’t have a problem, but you certainly do.

It would have made such a difference to me if he’d said something like, “Can I help you find where you’re going” or “The building directory is to your left.”

Sure, we all have bad days when we say or do something that is out of character. Maybe on another day, this man would have welcomed me and been helpful rather than treating me like I was a problem he’d have to fix. However, I may not ever go to that building again and he’ll never have a chance for a do-over.

There was an old Head and Shoulders commercial that said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” How true that has turned out to be. We all need to be aware of what we say and how we say it so that the person we are interacting with, is left with a positive impression – even if the interaction is as short term as the guard in the example above. 

How about when you go for a job interview? What about your first meeting with a prospective client? Do you think about what you plan to say and how you plan to say it before your meet? If not, you may want to run your opening through your brain or practice it out loud a couple of times so the first impression you make is a positive one.

Now, don’t get me started about the habit so many people have of saying, “No problem” instead of “you’re welcome” when they are thanked!  I want to respond – “I know I wasn’t a problem” but I stop myself.  Yet, it is tempting!


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