“First impressions are everything!”
Not only did I hear this growing up – I actually believed it!!
Sometimes first impressions can be right on target. However, they are not 100% and are certainly not foolproof.
Malcolm Gladwell, noted author of a book entitled “Outliers,” was quoted as saying this… “We don’t know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don’t always appreciate their fragility.”
We should always do our best at letting people see who we are at a first meeting, but cautiously. If we fake who we are in order to make a good first impression, we can begin the troublesome road of deception. Be certain, the real you will come out eventually.
Here are a few reasons from my perspective, why first impressions are not as accurate as we think they are.
- They do not take into account the circumstances surrounding the target of our first impression.
Someone we meet for the first time could have had the most absolute worst day, with few things going their way – causing a negative feeling on our part because they avoided eye contact or showed ambivalence to our meeting.
OR, someone could be elated from a former deal they brokered in which they were dishonest and upon meeting us they seemed pleasant, friendly, and happy. The danger if we accept this first impression is that we may find ourselves cheated in a deal with them in the future and left wondering how he/she could have been so dishonest.
- First impressions do not take into account how WE are feeling, or what preconceived notions we may have.
I have been guilty of this many times. After an initial encounter with another individual, I may draw conclusions about their character or personality, which were based mainly on my emotions during the encounter.
As I have grown, it has become a much better practice to spend time with the other person, get to know them better and allow their consistent actions and behavior to speak louder than my ideas about them. Usually, someone’s true character will come out eventually, at which time we can make a decision about whether we will continue to pursue this relationship/ friendship.
- First impressions are simply that, initial feelings.
Have you ever said something in the heat of the moment that you regretted? Have you ever put your worst foot forward and wanted to go back and start over? OR have you been so caught up in your own life you were oblivious to the lives of those around you?
Something tells me all of us said yes to one or all of those statements.
In order to be fair to others, we should allow them a second chance. We certainly desire second chances when we blow it. Keep in mind this is in reference to building healthy relationships. There could be some that manipulate you and leave you feeling confused. Chances are, they would continue to do so if you gave them a second chance.
For the purpose of this post, we believe we need to look at all the underlying circumstances surrounding a first encounter with a potential relationship (friendship, co-worker, acquaintance, etc.).
- Where are we in our emotions and situations when meeting someone?
- What happened during the day or is happening in the other person’s life that could negatively affect your meeting?
- What was said about you, or about them, that could have tainted either perspective before you met?
- If we received a second chance in our relationship with God, shouldn’t we give others that same benefit?
The disciples in Acts 2 were in the upper room when something phenomenal happened. God met them there and they began to speak in other languages as God gave them the ability to do so.
Those outside of that room who heard what was going on developed their first impression. Some were confused, but amazed. Some brushed off the event and said they were drunk.
Those who were outside of the upper room hearing what was going on with the disciples did not know who they were. They understood in their own languages what was being said, but didn’t understand why. Those who did not understand and needed to explain it away wrote it off as drunkenness.
Fortunately, Peter was able to command the attention of the crowd to explain what was going on. He debunked the idea of their being drunk, especially since it was so early in the morning.
Often we are not given opportunities to explain our actions after a first impression. We can be pegged as a certain kind of person or personality and it can be quite difficult to come back from it.
This is unfortunate, because there are some very good people who deserve a second chance in relationship. The question is, are we willing to treat others how we would want to be treated – and give others that second chance even if we were NOT given that same honor?
First impressions are so fragile. It is truly unfair to base a decision on relationship with someone who may have had difficulty with that one chance to “impress”.
This brings up another question – whom are we trying to impress?
If we are trying to impress someone, we leave the judgment in his or her hands. If we are trying to honor God in our relationships, we leave the judgment in the hands of the One who has the right to judge.
God takes our relationships very seriously.
How we treat others can say a lot about how much we value God’s view of us. This is not about just first impressions; it is about our hearts and how we view others.
If humility is evident in our lives, then a failed first meeting and poor impression can be overcome. If pride is there, the failed first meeting is very difficult to overcome.
I can say, with certainty, I need to be reminded on occasion to give people the benefit of the doubt. One way I do this is to personally invite them to coffee or lunch. At that meeting, I usually ask them questions and also to share their faith journey (where they grew up and how they came to live and work where they are currently). It is amazing how much you can learn about someone if you just ask questions and take the time to get to know them.
When you show a genuine interest in a life, often it brings a reward – of a good friendship. Hopefully the interest is reciprocated and God will be honored in the new relationship that has just formed.
What are your thoughts on first impressions? Share them below by commenting or replying. For more articles on the Lost Art of Relationship, see the right side of the page above for archived posts.