Someone’s general impression of you will be drawn from three data points:

  1. The mean interaction they have with you.
  2. The most intense interaction with you (positive or negative) that they can remember.
  3. The most recent interaction they’ve had with you.

In their mind, they’ll “average” those data points together and that will largely determine what they think of you.

(This assumes that there’s no major tribal pressure to like/dislike you – if all of my peer group loathes you, then I’m very likely to also dislike you no matter what happens in the three data points above. But let’s assume no major societal pressures right now.)

To improve #1, make sure that you have frequent meetings. The average meeting will probably be fine, but there will definitely be negative ones. The negative ones tend to happen whether you want them to or not, so the way to reduce their impact is just to have more interactions with someone. They’ll forgive you for spilling a drink on them one time if you have pleasant lunches every week. But if the only time they had lunch with you in the past year is when you spilled a drink on them, that will weigh heavier.

To improve #2, make sure to reframe any majorly negative interactions. Look for the silver lining, and talk about it at subsequent interactions. Don’t let the time you botched the presentation remain a negative memory forever. Next meeting, say “I’m really glad that you were there for me and I was able to learn from you. You’re an awesome partner!” Now that memory shifts away from “they dropped the ball” to a more pleasant “I saved the day.”

To improve #3, make sure you focus on the end of an interaction. Even if a meeting was an hour long and 58 minutes of negative news, make sure the last few minutes consist of “This was a really productive meeting, lots of great notes, looking forward to next week! Thanks!” It really matters – this is why you never hang up on someone and “don’t go to bed angry” is good advice.

Take all these together, and the people you interact with will generally find you more favorable than if you don’t do this stuff. The effort and attention matter; use them.

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