First Impressions

Mark Twain famously wrote:

Give a man a reputation as an early riser, and that man can sleep till noon.

Which, if you can get the former, is all well and good. But what if you’re unlucky, and have to deal with an unfavorable reputation? I would suggest that not only is it futile to argue about it, it’s not even productive to try to disprove it through action.


It’s pretty clear that argument is a waste of time, but one might suppose that the way to change a man’s mind is to present evidence that will induce him to reconsider his position. I don’t think that’s a very good idea. My suspicion is that people hate to change their minds, and will resent not only being told that they are wrong, but event being presented with evidence to that effect.

A Feature, not a Bug

If you wish to deal with an unfavorable reputation, I think the best course of action is to embrace it, and then to build upon it in a direction that’s more favorable to you. If you’re seen as lazy, try to cultivate a “lazy, but good at getting the important stuff done right” image. If your product is seen as ugly, try for “ugly, but functional and efficient”. If your company is seen as a bullying and monopolistic, try to present yourselves as “singlehandedly setting standards and creating the environment for innovation”.

Time Heals All Wounds

But don’t let people form an impression, and then present them with contrary information. That will just annoy them. If you must change their minds, try to wait until they’ve forgotten their first impression. That can take years, but it’s not impossible.

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