First Impressions

When I started examining my spiritual side earlier this year, I took inventory of the characteristics I liked, as well as the ones that weren’t so flattering.  For instance, I liked that I am a good friend to those I consider friends; but I recognized that I could be judgmental.  Although I rarely vocalized my opinions, I wanted to eliminate negative judgments from my life.

But there are still first impressions.  What are first impressions but an assessment of a person based on a single meeting?  A judgment.  I had heard it took 30 seconds for one to form an opinion of a person they met, but I recently found an article that suggested we form our opinions after 1/10 of a second.  A tenth of a second?  Talk about being an overachiever on the judgmental side!

First impressions test a judgmental girl’s self-control like a clearance sale tempts a shopaholic.  I can’t help it – first impressions happen whether I want them to or not.  I recently met someone whose first impression made me not want to give them an opportunity for a second one.  Something about this person screamed, “Run!”  Catching this quick judgment, I attempted to clean the slate and try harder to get to know this person.

At our second meeting, I decided this person was tolerable.  Possibly someone I could enjoy a conversation with.  I celebrated by defeat of the Critical Cathy in me and imagined judgment as an unidentifiable mass crumpled in a lifeless heap in front of me.

My premature celebration was cut short because the battle was not won.  My third encounter made me retreat to my first impression faster than a nine year old boy flees from housework (or soap!)  I don’t get a vibe that this person is mean-spirited.  On the contrary, I think this person’s heart is in the right place.  I think my first impression is warning of a personality conflict.

I appreciate the self-preserving nature of first impressions but, in this case, I’m not going to head for the hills.  I can’t condemn someone because our personalities don’t mesh.  With God’s help, I will continue to be friendly, all the while knowing we will never spend an afternoon getting to know each other over a cup of coffee.

That’s okay.  I mean, I don’t really have an afternoon to spare anyway.  Besides, I don’t drink coffee.

How about you?  How accurate are your first impressions?  Do your first impressions ever change over time?  Have you ever been burned by ignoring your first impression of someone?  Have you ever developed a friendship after a poor first impression?

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33 thoughts on “First Impressions

  1. Widdershins October 9, 2011 / 2:46 AM

    when it’s all said and done, life’s too short not to trust your gut.

    • jannatwrites October 9, 2011 / 1:59 PM

      True enough, Widdershins. But I still like to test it periodically to make sure it’s not out of balance. (Or maybe I just like a little self-inflicted misery? Oh well…)

  2. Carl D'Agostino October 9, 2011 / 4:09 AM

    Tried to explain to teens how important first impressions are at job interview esp clothing and hair style. Always got “well this is who I am” and “I’m expressing myself” . They never get it. Who you are based on how you look and express yourself will seldom get you a job because you look like an idiot dressed for Halloween, not the work place. Since there is so much out there to overwhelm us in our mega world of daily living, first impressions are not such an inappropriate way to reduce options because others should realize the nature of first impressions . If they appear to be jerks by first impression, therefore they must be for not projecting a good first impression.

    • jannatwrites October 9, 2011 / 2:08 PM

      Carl, I can go along with being who we are. However, when it comes to the job world, there’s a game with a framework of rules. To succeed, we have to play by the rules. I always followed the rule of “dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” It was a pain matching mail to files in a skirt and heels…but I only had to that for three months!

      The frightening thing about first impressions is that they can be dreadfully inaccurate (colored by past experiences.) An example: a guy I worked with in my fast food days looked scary – if he was walking toward me on the sidewalk, I would’ve crossed the street. Yes, that bad. I talked to him over the months we worked together and found out that he was a nice guy – not a thug.

      Thanks for weighing in on the subject, Carl.

  3. J. P. Cabit October 9, 2011 / 5:54 AM

    I’m usually good for a friendly counter-point. 🙂

    I propose a compromise. I believe that judgements have their place. We make judgments every day, good, bad or ugly. About nearly everything. The trick is to know when the judgement is helpful (This person is a STALKER and I should really get outta here) or harmful (Hmm…Bad earrings. 80’s sweater. Awful boots. Definitely someone I won’t want to be with.), and to throw out the bad and keep the good.

    For instance, I’m in the habit of forming first “I’m flat-out not going to like this person” impressions, (I know, it’s awful!), but I’ve come to the point where I can push those back, and more often than not, I end up appreciating and maybe even liking the person.

    …Which is something that probably anybody would tell you.

    • jannatwrites October 9, 2011 / 2:12 PM

      What you describe is exactly why I’m trying to give this person a chance. I truly think that this person is a caring person – not mean. It’s probably just a personality thing.

      So you’d not talk to someone because of an 80’s sweater? Darn, you’re tough!

      Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts, Seph!

      • J. P. Cabit October 10, 2011 / 4:48 PM

        HA HA HA! I was just picking a random example…I actually like 80’s sweaters. 😆

        • jannatwrites October 10, 2011 / 7:45 PM

          *Whew!* Me, too. Especially the ones where if you stretch your arms out to the side, it’s like you have wings.

          Oh. Not those?

          I hope you visit again, anyway 😉

        • J. P. Cabit October 11, 2011 / 2:53 AM

          I was thinking the ones with a turtleneck that’s more like an elephant neck.

          But now…I’m taking up comment space.

        • jannatwrites October 11, 2011 / 8:21 PM

          I’ve seen variations of that style recently. What’s old is new again.

          There’s plenty of comment space, so write away!

  4. Richard W Scott October 9, 2011 / 8:01 AM

    There are actually two components to this topic.

    First impressions aren’t really first impressions. Sociologists tell us that what we call a first impression is actually a rapid comparison of the new person to someone we already know (or knew). We see how they stand, their color of hair, a facial expression… we hear a tone of voice, catch a phrase they use… we react to their body language, how they dress, and in that “instant” are reminded of another. If the person they recall was a friend, we feel good about the new person, if we had a conflict with the other, we will want to avoid this new person.

    Knowing this we can step back and make a less critical assessment of a new person based upon who he or she really is, rather than who they remind us of.

    The second component is this: Most people do not know the above part (or have heard it and choose to go with their misleading “gut reaction” anyway). Given that we know this about people in general, we can strive to make a first impression that is as friendly, or as competent, or as _______________ fill in the blank, as the situation calls for. This is especially useful in job interviews. We can make a first impression work for ourselves by dressing up our bodies, our smiles, even our vocabularies for that first meeting.

    One more thing. A job interview is a bit like moving into a new neighborhood, or attending a new school. Nobody there knows you there, yet. You get to decide how you will be perceived in the new environment. You get to start fresh, without the biases or prejudices that have followed you in earlier jobs, schools or relationships.

    In other words, if you want it, you’ve got the power to recreate yourself.

    • jannatwrites October 9, 2011 / 2:19 PM

      I agree with the sociology aspect. It’s funny you brought it up, because this person actually does remind me of a type of person I encountered. However, I didn’t/couldn’t go into it because it would give away the person’s identity.

      I also see your point about a new job being a fresh start. I got a fresh start when I was in highschool and moved to another state. I was determined to make it different. It didn’t end up being an overnight change (is there even a such thing?) but over time, I had changed.

      Thanks for visiting and sharing your perspective, Richard!

  5. nrhatch October 9, 2011 / 10:12 AM

    You can’t judge a book by it’s cover . . . but, if a compelling story hasn’t appeared in the first few pages, it makes sense to look for another book. 😀

    Life is too short to be filled with people, places, and things that don’t “resonate” with us.

    • J. P. Cabit October 10, 2011 / 4:48 PM

      “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover . . . but, if a compelling story hasn’t appeared in the first few pages, it makes sense to look for another book.”

      😉 I like it. He he.

    • jannatwrites October 10, 2011 / 7:47 PM

      Love the comparison of people to books, Nancy. There are enough books (and people) that we should be able to find several to enjoy.

  6. Epizeuxis October 9, 2011 / 11:10 AM

    True…First Impressions are somehow very hard to eliminate no matter how much you try…

    • jannatwrites October 10, 2011 / 7:49 PM

      Most of the time they are spot on, but I’ve missed on a few and can’t help but (over) analyze how I went wrong 🙂

      Thanks for visiting, Epizeuxis!

  7. cuhome October 9, 2011 / 11:27 AM

    Thanks for your insights. I’ve often thought that when I get that, “Run! Get away from this person!”, might be because on a subconscious level, that person reminded me of someone I’ve long forgotten; eg., someone from the past that was really mean, a teacher I couldn’t stand . . . judgments are important, though~~ sometimes they’re accurate, and keep us safe. If the vibes don’t seem right, stay away; you can reevaluate your initial feelings as time goes on.

    • jannatwrites October 10, 2011 / 7:56 PM

      Don’t worry Cuhome, when I get a ‘danger’ vibe, I don’t second-guess those. Yeah, I could be wrong…but I’d rather be alive than know for sure. I’ve also found out that if a person seems too good to be true – they are. Those people are scary and I’ve learned to keep a suspicious eye on them.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on first impressions, Cuhome!

      • cuhome October 10, 2011 / 8:37 PM

        I so agree on the “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.” If I can’t see a flaw, somewhere, somebody’s hidin somethin !!

        • jannatwrites October 10, 2011 / 9:47 PM

          You got that right, Cuhome.

  8. Debbie October 9, 2011 / 11:49 AM

    I think we tend to make “snap judgments” about others because we’re often overwhelmed by how fast and furious our world is coming at us. Especially as we get older, there’s a good likelihood that the “new” person we’re reacting so negatively to is simply a reminder of an “old” person we once met/knew and didn’t get along with. Naturally, we need to be careful we’re not simply judging negatively before we’ve had time to find reasons for our decision. However, if you’ve had three encounters with this person and come back with an overall feeling of “oil not mixing with water,” perhaps your subconscious is trying to get your attention!

    • jannatwrites October 10, 2011 / 8:06 PM

      I’ve been told by more than one friend that before we were friends, they thought I was “stuck up.” The reason? I’m shy and am slow to initate conversations, especially when there are two or more people already talking. In this case, their snap judgment was wrong. Being “stuck up” would mean that I thought I was too good to talk to them, when in reality, I figured they wouldn’t want to bother talking to me.

      Jury’s still out on this one.

      Thanks for leaving a comment to share your insights, Debbie. You’ve given me more to think about.

  9. Jackie Paulson Author October 9, 2011 / 11:25 PM

    It’s so hard today because I have an acne condition and I know for a fact that I got turned down for a job with an attorney (I am a paralegal) because I have cystic acne…So first impressions count! I am never judgmental, it’s just not me. Great topic!!!

    • jannatwrites October 10, 2011 / 8:16 PM

      I’m sorry to hear that, Jackie. It’s not fair when things like that happen. I’m glad you ended up finding another job in spite of the difficulties.

      Thanks for visiting and sharing your personal experience.

  10. Tori Nelson October 10, 2011 / 8:18 AM

    My suspicion that I generally scare people is seeming more and more legit 🙂 I’ve never been one to make a good first impression!

    • jannatwrites October 10, 2011 / 9:00 PM

      I haven’t met you, of course, but my first online impression of you was that you were fun and maybe just a little crazy (not at all scary.)

      Still not scared, but always laughing, Tori 🙂

  11. pattisj October 10, 2011 / 1:29 PM

    I caught myself “sizing people up.” My conscience called me on it and labeled it judgment. I tend to be more careful now. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt…until they break trust.

    • jannatwrites October 10, 2011 / 9:43 PM

      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one, Patti. At least you recognized and pay attention to it. I am also more tuned in.

      Thanks for visiitng, Patti.

  12. Barb October 11, 2011 / 8:36 AM

    First impressions are VERY tricky. I had to change my mind both ways. In the 1980s with a girl who dressed all punk (while I was a Duranie) – I thought she was “bad” and it came out the was the sanest in the whole classroom (OK, we’re talking art school, she had the right “artistic” look, but was very normal, while others looked normal and had artistic behavior… do I make sense?). And in the new millennium I thought I had found an artist to work with – she is good, fast and so on – but it turned out she’s also unreliable, a liar and I’ll spare you the rest. She turned me off drawing my own stories for 4 years. So first impressions don’t always stick… both good and bad, I guess! 😉

    • jannatwrites October 11, 2011 / 8:06 PM

      I’ve also had to reverse my first impressions both ways, Barb. Unfortunately, I’ve had more than one event where I reversed my first impression and shouldn’t have.

      I get what you’re saying about the appearance and personality not ‘matching’ to what you’d expect. That’s the challenge of looking deeper. Sometimes we are rewarded with a beautiful soul that we wouldn’t have known otherwise. But on the flip side, we risk uncovering ugliness that should be left to reside under a large rock somewhere.

      I’m sorry you had to encounter the one who made you not want to draw, but I am glad for the ‘good’ acquaintances you’ve had.

  13. Desi October 16, 2011 / 9:32 PM

    This reminds me of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. There are great lessons there that lies beneath the wit. And of course, just look at how the Pharisees think about Jesus because he was not handsome, poor and lives a vagabond. They were full of pride and prejudice. 🙂

    • jannatwrites October 16, 2011 / 11:02 PM

      I may be one of the few people on the planet who has not read that book. I did notice it was a free download on Kindle and it’s on my download list…after I read some of the books I’ve already downloaded 🙂

      Interesting link between the novel and Jesus’ life. I’m curious if I will see the similarity when I read the book. Thanks for visiting, Desi. It’s been a while since you’ve commented, so I’m glad you stopped by!

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