Think for a minute of a person you met for the first time, later realizing you had an impression of them which turned out to be entirely wrong. An example may be seeing beauty in someone after learning who they are and their circumstances. Susan Boyle was misunderstood by the judges on “Britain’s Got Talent”; this was evidenced by observing the faces of those watching in astonishment as they realized how wrong their first impression was. Our feelings may be “right on the mark” in certain instances; however, we are wrong perhaps more than we want to admit.
What is it about ourselves that create this quick judgment? We are from the animal world; our natural instincts are designed to prevent us from harm. In the animal world, it is unacceptable to misinterpret a relationship. If you are right, you live; if not, you die. Not wanting to take the risk of death, an animal’s natural default is to flee from the unknown. The flight from the unidentified is done to take away any risk of making deeper evaluations.
So what is our “takeaway” here? First, understand our natural instinct is to place quick judgment. This decision should only be appropriately used as a defense mechanism in unfamiliar circumstances. In almost all other environments, it is only fair to assume the best in those we come in contact with; we must learn about them through conversation or further evaluation.
My personality leans toward friendliness in approaching others. I cannot tell you how often those with my comment about how different people are when a kind word or simple smile is extended. On one occasion, I drove by two guys who didn’t even acknowledge I existed. One could describe them as gangsters–they had been riding motorcycles but were now sitting on a wall, dressed entirely in black, smoking, wearing bandanas and dark glasses, and showing no sign of wanting to engage with me. I parked my car and needed to walk by them on the sidewalk. As I passed, I said, “Hi! Great bikes!” Then I noticed they were Harley’s which I have an interest in. They responded, surprised that anyone would acknowledge them, saying “thanks” and went on talking among themselves.
I took care of my business and needed to pass by them again. Now knowing what their bikes were this time, I asked them what models they were. They put out their cigarettes, came off the wall, and began talking to me about their bikes. They even asked if I wanted to take one for a spin! I guarantee I would have never learned how kind and generous these young men were or anything about what they were doing if I had only relied on what my prejudice may have been toward how they appeared. Taking the next step and relying on more input before placing judgment gave me a great experience.
Second, understand that we live in a world where first impressions are constantly judged, and we may be categorized inappropriately. It has been said, “Our first impression may be our only impression to give,” or “There is no chance for a good second impression.” So while I suggest not making judgments too quickly on others, know that you are often being evaluated by your appearance or first impression. Do your best to make sure you emerge as who you are or want to be. If you come forward into new relationships with the self-confidence of “dressing the part,” you will have a better chance of achieving your desired outcome.
Having witnessed first impressions are hard to overcome and often unfair, don’t be guilty of committing the wrongdoing of judging others if you do not want the same to happen to you.