Embarrassment is high when you ‘put your foot in it’ and gaffe socially with someone you have just met. Perhaps you forgot their name having been just introduced. Do you feel this will leave a lasting negative impression?
You can put things right. Recent research**shows that an initial negative impression and judgement can be changed. However, the researchers found that this needed a positive and active rethink of deeply held initial negative emotions and judgments. Participants on the receiving end had to concentrate with no distraction. Then they were able to reinterpret a gaffe and consider the motives of the other person. In so doing, they often achieved a positive shift that reversed their initial impression.
1 thing you can do if you gaffe:
If you yourself have – ‘put your foot in it‘ and, gaffed – then be honest. You may say something like “I was really nervous about meeting you…” or “you caught me at a bad time…”. Most people will relate to your honesty.
1 thing you can do for the person who gaffes:
The next time someone ’puts their foot in it’ with you consider what other possibilities may lie beneath their behaviour. The research showed the importance of understanding motives and addressing a social gaffe. Was the person really nervous or very shy? Was the person who slammed past you in the car park rushing to an ill relative?
*Mann, T., & Ferguson, M. (2015). Can We Undo Our First Impressions? The Role of Reinterpretation in Reversing Implicit Evaluations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology DOI:10.1037/pspa0000021
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