Is it possible you were mistaken?
I attended a workshop recently, where total strangers were divided into groups and had to produce a product. Of course you get to chatting and get to know the people you are working with, if only a little. By the end of our project, we were all paying each other compliments on a job well done. One person even went so far as to say to me “You’re awesome” (chuckle). As I was packing up and getting ready to leave, this person caught me to chat a little more. I was quite surprised when they said to me, “You know, when I first saw you, I didn’t like you.” Wow, what do you say to that? I just said “Oh.” They went on to say, “Then you opened your mouth and I knew you had content.” Interesting.
I have a dear friend who has told me, “Before I knew you, I was afraid of you.” ME? Really? Wow.
What is it about first impressions? I have to say that after my conversation with the person at the workshop, I did a little self evaluating – I mean, who wouldn’t, right? I thought – wow, what is it about me that put that person off? Okay, so I have short spiky hair (salt & pepper gray) and I can be a little loud on occasion, and maybe a little gruff. I am, after all, an Army Strong Mom – HOOAH! Grin Does that make me unlikable, or scary? I guess to some people it does, sigh. However, I concluded that I am who I am and I like me, so for those few who won’t get to know me based on a false first impression, it’s their loss. Humph.
The infamous “they” say first impressions are drawn in 3-12 seconds after meeting (or seeing) someone. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is a classic business course statement. Why is this true? Is it just our human nature to make quick judgments? Who are we to judge other people, anyway? Are you perfect? I know I’m not.
I saw a couple in a store the other day that both had those nose rings that look like the ones that go in a bull’s nose. I had to squelch the thought going through my head (which was – do you know how ridiculous you look?) They were just like anyone else at the store, putting their items on the conveyor belt, having a “normal” conversation. So they look different then I do – yeah, so what. I mean, look at how goofy Albert Einstein looked – grin.
On a recent trip a guy sat next to me. He was heavy-set, had long dyed black hair, wore all black clothes and was covered with tattoos. Be honest, what kind of conclusions might you have drawn about this guy? It was rather awkward just sitting there staring straight ahead, so I leaned over and asked, “Did that hurt?” We ended up in quite a long conversation and I discovered he was a business owner, quite knowledgeable, well mannered, and seemingly a nice guy.
What about the dirty homeless person, pushing a grocery cart down the street with all their earthly possessions? What do we think of that person? Probably nothing nice, and yet we have no idea what that person has been through in their life – what has brought them to this lifestyle.
On the opposite side of the coin… how about the beautiful, well dressed, successful person who is living on top of the world? How many times has a superstar fallen because the public has discovered the dirty little secrets that were not evident from our first impression? It can work both ways, we can be very impressed by some real jerks.
First impressions can be so inaccurate. I think we should try to look past that first impression – reserve judgment on what we think of a person until we get to know them a little better. We can be missing out on getting to know some amazing people because we made a wrong conclusion about them, based on that 3-12 second first impression.
So, go out and talk to someone you have decided you don’t like or are afraid of. You may be pleasantly surprised.