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‘First Impressions Last’…Because We Are Stupid

June 26, 2012

Hasty Judgement May Cost You Meaningful Connections

I think some of the most important people in my life today are people who I gradually embraced. Either I misunderstood them or was misunderstood by them at first.

An impression is “an idea, feeling, or opinion about something or someone, especially one formed without conscious thought or on the basis of little evidence.” Obviously it cannot be sensible to base our relationships on something so shallow. | Photo by Adam Foster | Codefor

On the flipside, many of my deepest wounds come from people I had hurried to hug. Amazingly, the people – and there are some – whose presence I can now only endure by extremely long, deep and agonizing groans, are people who at first seemed picture perfect as friends.

I know I am not alone in this. Why then do we say ‘first impressions last’, as though it were a good thing, and build our lives around it, when a whole lifetime of experiences clearly tell us to look deeper?

Hey – I fully understand why parents and teachers rivet the idea “First impressions last”. They do because they know, stupid or not, that it is the reality. It can affect whether you get a job or not. So, by all means, go and make great first impressions.

People Are Not Dispensable

While we cannot change the fact that others will judge us by the first impressions we make, I submit that it is stupid (lacking common sense) for us in our personal lives to define the value of a person by the first 2 minute conversation we have with them.

The fundamental problem I have with this concept however is that it is based on a idea that people are dispensable. It is a cut-throat business concept. It may certainly help Human Resource Department to clear through 100 resumes in an hour. It will cheat you of the value that different and, at first, unimpressive people may add to your life.

If you need reasons (why the idea is stupid) here are some:

  1. All real people have bad days.
  2. Many people also have bad weeks and months.
  3. Millions, perhaps billions of humans, have bad years!  [Parents die.  Meaning and purpose for living elude us. People grow, mature and advance in their thinking and living.]
  4. The wonder of humanity is that unlike dogs, people CAN and DO change.
  5. No first impression is a full impression.
  6. No impression whatsoever is a true representation.
  7. The problem with marrying a girl/guy for her/his good first impression, is that you will have to live daily with their last impression.
  8. Look at how Oxford defines the word impression: ‘an idea, feeling, or opinion about something or someone, especially one formed without conscious thought or on the basis of little evidence.’
  9. The habit of trusting good impressions is a silly trait in a world of lying, scheming con artists.
  10. We all have a deep, nagging hurt inside at the idea that someone we value misunderstands who we truly are/what we can truly do/why we said or did whatever.
  11. Half the list of “Great First Impression” stuff are superficial and inconsequential.  [I would love to hear the American Airlines CEO explaining on CNN after 4 or 5 pilots crash into the sea, “Gee, they all had really great eye contact in their interview.”]
  12. Half the time our own prejudices are what determine the extent of a good first impression.
  13. I typed “Good first impression” in google. Found a list of 21 ways to do it. Evaluate the list and ask yourself If you had to do open heart surgery. Which of these 21 things would help you to decide what doctor to choose.

What to Do Instead

1. Give people a chance.

Give everyone the opportunity to demonstrate truly, genuinely who they are. No timeline. No presumptions. No expectations. No restrictions. None of that.

2. Give people a chance…not your head and your heart!

On the converse, don’t be fooled by first, second, third impression. Seriously, in a world where people are taught to craft a good first impression, why would you trust your first impressions of anyone?

Have you ever made a bad first impression? How did it feel?

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  • X.

    I know that first impression is not fair at all but on the other hand it could be instinct. And we do say, trust your instinct. Most of the times you can feel it, it’s there. So why not. Give other people a chance and at the same time remember your first impression.
    Very nice post, I like it.

    • http://maximizemylife.com/ Andrew Wildes

      Hey X, I get what you’re saying about trusting instincts. I’m just saying make and effort to go beyond just the first impression. You never know, sometimes people may surprise you.

  • Latanya

    Well since I haven’t mastered the art of making a good first impression, I’m constantly disregarded as a good candidate or even a fun/interesting person (which I know I am). I do however feel cheated of the opportunity to actually prove myself or allow them to know me. As you said we all do have bad days at times and also for me I have reserved personality (as a result of growing up alone and not knowing till late in life how to approach person and really build conversations). I have also come to realize that many person I have met are really not who they appear to be when I first met them.

    Great topic and points!

    • http://maximizemylife.com/ Andrew Wildes

      Thanks for commenting @5e4940e3c2d2e54845a2aedb11bc2296:disqus I am really glad to hear the perspective of someone who has actually experienced what I have written about.
      The truth is, you may just have to work harder at doing the shallow nonsense that etiquette classes teach about making a good first impression – so that you are set back by people who look for those traits.
      You and I though and everyone who knows better should make the change in our relationships/interactions with others. Who knows, maybe we can start a real counter-cultural movement just by how we treat people in our everyday lives.

  • Candi

    I made my first horrible “first impression” earlier this year and it was very embarrassing. In the end I asked for a second chance and got it. Not sure what impression I’m making now but the other party isn’t complaining. On the other hand I am learning to not judge “the book by it’s cover” with the individual as well.

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