A second chance at a first impression

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CHICAGO (AP) — New research suggests that, contrary to the old saying, you can indeed get a second chance to make a first impression.


Most people agree that first impressions are important. New research shows that you can turn a run-of-the-mill experience into an influential first impression, simply by making it seem like a first. For example, a person’s seventeenth visit to a neighborhood coffee shop might normally be unlikely to alter her opinion of that shop much. However, the research finds that when that visit is linked to an unrelated “first” - maybe the first visit of the month, the first visit after starting a new job, or the first visit during a special promotion - a mental “reset” button is pushed, leading that visit to have a larger impact on people’s impressions, just like a true first visit would.


This research, by Robyn LeBoeuf, Elanor Williams, and Lyle Brenner, which appears in the most recent issue of the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing Research, suggests that you can turn an experience into a meaningful first impression in a variety of ways. In one study, people read descriptions of five visits to the dentist. The fifth visit had a greater impact on impressions of the dentist when that visit was the “first” one after the presidential election (versus when it happened “near” the election). In another study, people read six hotel reviews, similar to those on travel websites. The final review was more influential when it was the first review of the year versus just another review.


“By connecting an everyday experience to a first, even an unrelated first, you can turn that experience into a first experience,” say the authors. “Customers may evaluate their old standby restaurant in a new light after the first dinner since they moved into a new house, or if the manager welcomes them to ‘the first dinner of the summer.’ This may allow familiar products - and even people - a chance to make a fresh impression.”


Thus, if your co-workers or customers have a poor impression of you or your product, all is not lost. Look for a positive experience, and when you find one, connect it to a first, by pointing out that it is, say, the first meeting after vacation or the first shopping trip of the season.  This can give you a second chance at that first impression.


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