The individual in question was someone to whom I’d just been introduced. We shook hands, said hello and that thirty-second interaction deeply impressed me. I know almost nothing about this person and yet I liked him immediately.
This snap judgement made me wonder about the accuracy of first impressions. Can they be trusted? How much weight should a first impression be given? Should a bad vibe about someone be given more weight than a good one?
We’ve all met others people who come across as warm, kind and trustworthy only to discover their true personalities as we get to know them better. Some folks excel at meeting new friends but have trouble maintaining healthy relationships over the long term.
And I know more than a few people who may not make a great first impression but turn out to be wonderful once you’ve interacted with them for a while. They might be socially awkward, distracted by difficult life circumstances or live with mental illnesses that make it more difficult for them to open up right away.
Occasionally someone I meet will give me a case of bad vibes. I brushed away those feelings once a long time ago and quickly regretted it. I don’t have a rational explanation for why some people set off my internal alarm but I’ve learned to pay attention to it. More recently there was a time several years ago when I was about to board an elevator behind two men. They were perfectly ordinary looking guys but as soon as I lifted my foot to step into the elevator something felt off about the situation.
I suddenly wanted to be anywhere on this planet other than a confined space with two strange men. A part of me thought, “Don’t be silly! They guys haven’t done anything suspicious and it’s only a five minute ride to your floor.” The doors began to close. I backed out of the elevator and stood in the hallway feeling a little foolish.
When the next elevator arrived the feeling has disappeared and I went home in peace. I’m not a superstitious person and I was probably over-reacting….but I’ve never regretted waiting for that next elevator.
How much emotional weight do you give first impressions? Has your first impression of someone ever been completely inaccurate? Has it ever been 100% correct?