Quickest Way to a Good First Impression: Unsolicited Positive Feedback


Bad first impressionI recently heard a speaker say it takes fifteen good impressions to fix one bad first impression.

I believe that, 100%.

And recently I have noticed this one thing people do frequently to make a bad first impression. I must warn you, once you know this, you will start to see it everywhere.

Are you ready? The #1 way to make a bad first impression, every time, is to open with:

Unsolicited Advice

In my book and in much of my networking advice, I explain that what works best to establish a good first impression is to tell someone how much you admire them, why you care about their work, or how much you appreciate what they do.

That tactic has gotten me and the dozens of other students I’ve mentored meetings with executives from the White House, Disney, the NBA, The New York Time, etc.

You know what never works? 

Yep, you guessed it: unsolicited advice. Which is, in short, telling someone what you think they need to change, how they need to do something better, or why you know something they don’t.

Have you ever posted something casual on Facebook and had that one random person give you some kind of advice or feedback when you weren’t asking? It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. And, regardless of the correctness of the advice, it gives you a bad feeling toward that person.

Don’t be that person. 

If your number one concern is being right, putting forth your opinion to everyone, and making sure you are telling people what they need to do, then, well, unsolicited advice just might be for you. Just know that you will sacrifice the ability to network effectively.

When someone gives advice to a person who didn’t ask, it’s frankly a bit insulting. There is no way around it. Unless it’s in the context of a mentorship relationship, professor-student relationship, boss-employee relationship, or close family/friend relationship where you already have a strong foundation of trust, it’s an instant relationship-ruiner.

Especially when it comes to first impressions.

So if you ever feel the need to give someone advice that they didn’t ask you for, ask yourself these questions before you proceed:

  1. Do I have a strong foundation of trust with this person?
  2. If I don’t say what I’m about to say will this person get into serious harm?
  3. Is this person going to appreciate me giving this advice?

If the answers are yes, go ahead. But if they’re not, just say no to unsolicited advice.

(And, to be honest, even my husband and I joke about the unsolicited advice we give each other, because it still drives us crazy!)

Instead, the best way to build good first impressions in your networking and personal relationships is to think about how you can give unsolicited positive feedback. Nothing will endear people to you more.

Overachievers Action Item:

Think about how you feel when someone gives you a compliment on Facebook. Today instead of just “liking” your favorite pictures and comments on your newsfeed, comment and compliment generously. And then watch what happens. 🙂


IsaAbout the Author: Isa Adney is the founder of CommunityCollegeSuccess.com and author of Community College Success: How to Finish with Friends, Scholarships, Internships, & the Career of Your Dreams. Isa speaks to students regularly about diversity, networking, and leadership. She’d love to connect with you on her blog, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.



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  • Alfred Poor

    Great advice. It’s so much easier to throw bricks than bouquets (something I’ve learned in 30 years as a writer), and people aren’t used to hearing good things about what they do. However, I’d recommend that you be sure to make the positive feedback real, even if it’s “I really like your outfit.” Better yet, speak to a concrete action that the person has taken that has informed or aided you somehow. Maybe you learned something from how they made a decision. If you can show that you are an actively engaged participant in the company, observing and making the effort to understand strategic issues, you may get more mileage out of your positive feedback.

    [By the way, I believe that there is a typo in the post. I believe that after “is to open with:” the intended heading was “Unsolicited Positive Feedback” instead of “Unsolicited Advice”.]
    Alfred Poor
    Author of “7 Success Secrets That Every College Student Needs to Know!”

  • New York housing for students

    Great advice! It was nice reading the post.