Say you just blew a job interview. Or your nerves got in the way during a first date. Maybe meeting your significant other’s parents didn’t go as well as you’d hoped. Whatever the case may be, a bad first impression can feel like the end of the world in that moment. But rest assured, you can recover and I’m going to tell you how.

    1) Don’t freak out.

    The worst thing you can do after making a not-so-great first impression is freak out. Once it’s happened, it’s happened, and there’s nothing you can do to change the encounter. So, remain calm and try not to let it affect the rest of your day or the situation going forward. Remind yourself that a first impression is often not the last impression and it can be overshadowed.

    2) Remember that everyone has been there.

    Everyone has experienced an awkward first encounter before this and also been the perpetrator as well. So while it may feel like the end of the world to you, know that it probably isn’t such a big deal to them. If it was a job interview, the interviewer expected you might have some nerves and will likely keep that in mind. The same goes for a first date, meeting your girlfriend or boyfriend’s parents, and many other cases. People can be more understanding than you think.

    3) Follow up: appropriately and sincerely.

    The next action you should take is following up if appropriate. So, if it were a bad first job interview, send a professional, earnest email thanking them for their time. And if you can, let your personality shine in this email, since it didn’t get the chance to in the initial conversation. If we’re talking about a first date gone wrong or another situation of the like, you could also follow-up, but maybe with a phone call or a text—one you spend explaining your nerves and your desire to make up for it with another date or conversation.

    4) Let it go.

    Once you’ve calmed down, reminded yourself that everyone finds themselves in awkward situations at one point or another, and attempted a nice follow-up, it’s time to let it go and move on. This could mean moving on completely if so desired, or moving forward to the next interview, next date, or second-go at spending time with the ‘rents of your significant other. You’ve done everything you can do at this point and the next steps involve capitalizing on your future opportunities.

    5) Stay calm and collected moving forward.

    So it turns out your bad first impression didn’t ruin whatever opportunity or relationship was at stake. It’s time to make sure the first encounter isn’t repeated. Therefore, you have to swallow the nerves that potentially ruined your initial impression and go forward with the goal of making the next conversation a great one.

    6) Be honest and personable in your next encounter.

    Maybe you weren’t yourself the first go-around. It happens and it’s okay. But this time, make it a priority to stay true to yourself and show the potential employer, or whoever, what you’re really all about. Don’t give answers just because you think they’re the “right” ones. Don’t say things just because you think it’s what the other person wants to hear. You should speak from the heart—that way a mutually respectful relationship can be established and real ground can be covered. Besides, if your lies were to get you the job you probably wouldn’t like it very much. And if you lied to get on your girlfriend’s mom’s good side, you’ll either have to keep up the lies or let your true feelings out eventually.

    7) Accept all of the events that unfolded.

    Though it was a bad first impression, you should accept that it happened as well as the encounters that ensued—sometimes everything just doesn’t go as smoothly as you hoped and that’s okay. All that matters is that you tried to build off of it and improve future interactions. This is a great learning experience and something to look back on the next time you feel tripped up at a job interview or nervous for a date. Because chances are, it will happen again—that’s just human nature.

We all have off days, which can sometimes lead to an awkward experience or bad first impression. But before you have a breakdown because of it, think back on these tricks to recovering and moving forward, as there’s no need to stay stuck in an embarrassed or regretful rut.

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