It’s no secret that first impressions only happen once. But, we’re often so concerned with the impressions that we leave on others that we seldom scrutinize the first impressions that we get from others. How often has someone who you thought you would not like turned into a good friend? Similarly, how often has a friend turned out to be an imposter? Therein lies the issue with the first impression.
“But they seemed so nice.” Nearly every time a domestic abuser is convicted, once all of the evidence comes out, that is the most common sentence family and friends say about the abuser. Here’s a reality check about even chronic abusers – they almost never hit on the first date. They are often the most charming people you will ever meet. Why would somebody front like this? Hmm…
It should go without saying that others are often just as interested in making a good first impression as you are. They just have different motivations for the good impression. For some of us, that desired impression may be to appear friendly, and confident, because we’re trying to let someone know that is who we are. For others, this is an audition to project friendliness as well, but with the goal of getting inside someone’s walls.
People seldom lie to cover up the positive things they do in life. Nobody has ever told me that they were about to go to the bar when they were about to go volunteer at a shelter.
Judgments are just as dangerous. People have a tendency to think that if one person of a group holds a particular behavior, then ALL people from the group must be like that. We desperately want things to be that simple. If someone has a beard, it must mean they’re tough! Don’t believe me? Go ask them why they’re growing it.
I’ve seen memes that say some of the most ridiculous lines. “Dirty hands are a sign of clean money.” A friend who shared that seems to have forgotten that her sister had just gotten taken advantage of by a mechanic. Corruption is so assumed to be a part of white collar circles that it is also assumed not to exist in blue collar environments, as though no welder or carpenter has ever scammed anyone. I see a lot of this form of snobbery in my rural community.
Reality check – If the worst of people were obviously horrible upfront, they would never be able to get what they want from other people. This gives every person a major incentive to put their best foot forward, even if it means putting up a major front every time they leave the house. This means that just because someone is nice to you the first time that you met, that doesn’t mean they’re automatically a good person.
It is almost appalling how often people allow long-term abuse to begin only because the first impression was so good. That mask can fall off pretty early into the relationship, but some will hold on to that image that was already formed. This is where most people get in trouble. As Dr. Maya Angelou says, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” That first overreaction to not getting their way, shortly after meeting you, is going to be just that – the FIRST overreaction to not getting their way.
Never buy the first impression. That’s only an audition. At one end, it’s a successful day for an abuser who fooled you with his charms. At the other end, it could be an awesome person who was just having an off day. Our opinions of people need to be fluid enough to adjust accordingly with all new information we gather as time goes on and the relationship evolves.
If they were nice to the waiter on the first date, but snotty on the second, third, fourth, and fifth, guess what? I’m not telling you; you have enough to know the answer. If you’re surprised on the sixth date that the other person was rude to the waiter, then you are setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment. Here’s an ending that I will be kind enough to spoil – eventually, that person will treat you the same way they’re treating that waiter.
First impressions and judgments need to be labeled as just that – FIRST. Initial. A draft copy, if you will. It should be easy to adjust your opinion of someone after the first impression of meeting them as you don’t have enough to form a full map of their personality. Accept new data that contradicts the first set.
Many thanks, and Best Blessings,
Journaling prompts: What first impression do you wish to give? What do you do to enforce this reputation after you’ve been met? What is the bridge between you as you are and you as that first impression? What are you doing to close the gap?
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