A REDO On First Impressions

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The first time I met Tom we both said “Hey!” and extended our hands to shake. Maybe neither of us had eye hand coordination that day or we weren’t paying attention, but, we missed. We didn’t miss each others outreached hands altogether, but the shake was not quite right, the hands didn’t quite clench together. There were awkward thumbs and angles. It happens all the time but with Tom, he said, “Wait a minute, that’s not a good one, let’s get a proper handshake. Come on.” And with that, we shook hands again and it was a good handshake. We became good friends and I always respected his honesty and forthrightness.

Tom and I had a REDO on the first impression. And what was an awkward first exchange became a positive one. The lesson is not in the handshake but in the REDO. Tom taught me long ago that if something is not quite right in that first minute, sometimes it’s ok to pull the REDO card out.

The old adage “You only get one chance to make a first impression…” is true. Mostly. Lots of times we know when the first impression is not good. If you know right away that you did not put your best foot forward, don’t just accept it – change it.

Like, if you spill your coffee walking into a conference room with colleagues, don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Say something about it and go for the REDO.

Or, in an interview if the first five minute just goes sideways and the interviewer is about to mentally check out, stop the interview. Say something like, “Wait, I am just not presenting myself as I would like, and I am not giving you a true impression, let me start all over.” You have nothing to lose in the interview, why not try the REDO?

Conversely, the REDO can work when you suspect someone is about to go in the wrong direction in the initial interaction. In a recent meeting with a junior PR person, she started out by asking me, “How would you describe your job?” I replied, “College President.” Her follow up question was, “What are your duties?” At that point I stopped the meeting and helped the PR person better understand first impressions (as well as how to do a little research). I did the REDO for her and she was thankful. We now have an honest and productive relationship.

A handshake is one of the first things we do when greeting someone new. It is a metaphor for what can go write or wrong in those first seconds and how we can get second chances for that first impression. Sometimes.

A REDO can save a career.

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