We have all heard about making a lasting first impression, about how much a first impression matters, about the first impression being everything. But is it?
Unless you make a terrible, terrible first impression, you typically have time to recover and make up for something you’ve done or said. Obviously, if this is a meeting with a potential client or job interview, then don’t be late because that is a first impression that tends to linger poorly. You can make a bad first impression and still remain in a conversation that is worthwhile and beneficial. Plenty of times the first impression is really only stuck in your head.
Turns out the last impression can be the one that typically resonates and sticks with folks, which is great because you can focus your time and energy on creating a lasting last impression. The other thing about last impressions is that there are multiple last impressions. Think of dating, briefly: you want to end each date on a good note in order to leave a more lasting impression on that person. It’s the same in business: when you leave a meeting or an interview on a good note, that is typically the first thing that folks will recall.
There is an episode of Seinfeld where George realizes that if he tells a joke and people laugh, it is more beneficial for him to leave the room than stick around and attempt to follow up with the joke. This ends with him making ajoke and leaving the office to uproarious laughter – for a while – but the last impression that he imprinted on folks was that he was hilarious. The next time they saw George in a meeting, they were more prone to laugh because the last memory of him they had was that he was exceptionally funny.
The episode starts with George failingly attempting to follow up jokes and leaving a poor last impression when his follow ups fall flat. Luckily there are plenty of opportunities to make a better last impression. If you make a string of good last impressions, the chances that you build a worthwhile relationship, especially in the professional sector are that much greater.
There are lots and lots of ways to make a great last impression. They all depend on the person or people you are talking to and the conversation you are having. Say you have to let an employee know that a loved one was in a car accident; ending this with a joke about poor driving is going to leave a terrible last impression. Conversely, let’s say you are meeting with a marketing client who has had a bad month; find a couple things that went well for them over the last month and be sure to end your meeting with at least one good piece of information in order to end the meeting on a good note and create a better last impression.
A sour note tends to do more damage than a good memory. Keep this in mind when you make your next last impression.