Guest Post by RomeoRevamped, more of his writing available at https://medium.com/@RomeoRevamped
Uh oh, you’ve done it now. You’ve gone and told the girl you’ve just met that she should smile more. Or maybe you’ve made some mean comments about management to the person that you didn’t know was your new manager.
It’d be nice if every encounter we have with someone new happens just like in the movies. You meet each other and immediately enter into a witty yet mysteriously engaging back and forth of banter, which inevitably leads to you making out in the closet.
Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. Sometimes things start awkwardly. Sometimes you don’t know what to say, and you end up saying the wrong thing. Hell, sometimes you’re a little drunk. Watching someone’s face turn sour mid-conversation can be a lousy break, but not one that you can’t overcome.
THE BAD IMPRESSION
First of all, it would benefit us all if we were a little better at reading the room. Don’t be the one asking loud questions in a quiet office or commenting on someone’s religion without respecting their beliefs. Observations about the environment can give you context about what mental space a person is in and what they expect to see. Also, asking questions before you remark can save you a lot of trouble.
Even so, mistakes happen, and incorrect assumptions are made. Usually, a bad impression leads someone to think that you’re somebody who you’re not. You’ve shown them one side of you, but that’s not the side that the situation called for. Now you’ve had that side mistaken for the whole of your character. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression, but you do get a chance to surprise them with the second impression.
Empathy and hindsight
When you’ve offended, creeped out, hurt, or judged someone, recognizing it can allow you to correct it quickly. Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes while talking to them. Feel how you would like this interaction to go if you were them.
It’s not always obvious that the conversation has gone left. If you can’t figure it out, it’s usually fine to ask. ” Did I offend you somehow”? ” I feel like we’ve gotten off on the wrong foot, did we?” You’d be surprised at how easily some people would be willing to bury the hatchet.
Call it out
If you’re not the “talk it out” type, and you’d instead like to get straight to the issue, that’s fine. Confidently voicing your blunder can turn the interaction around immediately. Don’t be afraid to make fun of an awkward or embarrassing situation you’ve caused. If you can both laugh about it, you can move past it. When everything is out in the open, you’re now back on the same page.
Also, being straightforward and laughing with each other will break the ice and make it less necessary to be so formal. Meeting someone new can feel like walking a tightrope. Talking with someone who you’ve made into a friend is much more comfortable.
Apologize if necessary
It’s commonly appreciated when a person is self-assured enough to admit when they are wrong. Right now isn’t the time to let pride or embarrassment prevent you from doing what’s right. Ultimately the other person will like and respect you more because of it.
That doesn’t mean you should say you’re sorry at every wrong turn. It means that if you feel like you’ve caused someone to react in a way that you didn’t intend, you should correct it.
It’s often better to switch the context of the conversation rather than continuing on the same downward spiraling path. If you come off too intense, try bringing the energy down significantly. If things start awkwardly, try being more straight forward and fun. If you have offended them, slip in a compliment here and there.
Changing directions works well when you think you’ve unintentionally offended someone. Perhaps you’ve mistaken a birthmark for a nasty bruise or incorrectly assumed their age. Get off the subject quickly and show them that you’re not actually the biggest jerk in the world.
You might have to resort to more round-about measures from time to time. If you can, try enticing their friends into liking you. They have more influence on them. You’ll likely come up in a conversation or be introduced by those friends into another meeting with them. Even if they only see their friend’s good reaction to you, it’ll be enough to give you a second life.
There are bound to be special circumstances that aren’t so black and white. These require a bit more effort. Perhaps a smidgen of finesse. If you navigate them correctly, the result is the same.
Whoa, I don’t know what you said, but you may be in for an ear full. There’s a chance you might have really pissed them off. It’s essential to remain calm if you want to turn this situation around. Even if you’re not entirely in the wrong, you have to try not to get upset. It’s harder (not impossible) for most people to argue if they don’t have a participant on the other end. Once it’s over and you’ve calmed them down, you can then talk it out and try the options above.
Obviously, you should know when to walk away from someone like this. If yelling and lashing out is the only thing that gets someone’s attention, trust me, you don’t want that attention.
It’s not your fault
There will be times that you’ve tried everything you can to get through to someone, but you still fail. Time to consider that maybe their view of you stems from things you can’t control. It’s unfortunate, but it does happen.
Things like race, religion, lifestyle, etc., can sometimes give misconceptions. Someone may be placing a stereotype or prejudice on you that is undeserving. If this seems to be the case and you still want this person to like you, all you can do is continue to be your best self. I wouldn’t recommend changing your behavior at all for a person like this. That would compromise your integrity. It may take a long time, but they might eventually come around. Once again, sometimes walking away is the best option.
For all things social, confidence is key; everything else is a doorway. Dealing with people, whether it be romantically, at work, or miscellaneously is a balancing act. You’ll have to know when to be flexible and when to have clear boundaries. Try not to focus on every little mistake. Most things are either forgiven or forgotten in the long run. There is no need to stress over the first few steps.