After having to pretend to understand obscure references, exchanging pleasantries with unpleasant people and having to eat the rest of my tomato soup after running out of Goldfish, there is nothing I hate more than first impressions.
The not-so-shocking problem with first impressions is that you only get one. I tend to think of the whole process as an interview of sorts. It doesn’t matter whether it is with an employer or not; the majority of first impressions are about selling yourself, whether or not you have a reason to do so.
The reason is that with every introduction, every first hello and every initial handshake, we are reaffirming our own self image. If you were to meet a person at a bar and tell them you are a musician at heart, but going to school on the side as a backup plan, you are evoking one image. However, the very next day you may be talking to a group of professionals over dinner and playing up how you are investing more time in school and putting music on the back burner.
You are not necessarily changing your story deliberately; everything you say is a part of you, but certain attributes express themselves at different times depending on a number of variables.
Like it or not, we live in a world of snap judgments. The main issue with this is that many of us are not living picture-perfect lives ready to be “snapped” at any moment. The pieces may all be there, but as with any puzzle, to see the true picture of someone’s life, they must all be arranged properly.
I like to think of first impressions as the first shot at a photo shoot. Anyone who has watched “America’s Next Top Model” can attest that it takes a few pictures to get warmed up. If the first frame is good and the rest are subpar, Tyra is sure to preach on the importance of consistency.
Why is it, then, that consistency is so often discounted when it comes to the frames that comprise the moments and stories of our lives? Some of the most colorful, insightful and hilarious people are the ones who take a little for people to warm up to them. Their first impressions may leave something to be desired, but their seventh, eighth and 59th impressions are unforgettable.
It cannot be denied that we live in a fast-paced world, and people feel the need to quickly decipher who is the best job candidate, friend or spouse from the get-go. And this is why no matter how challenging making a good first impression may seem, it is vital in today’s world.
The first step is realizing that no matter how valiant an effort you put into expressing your whole self, the only thing that can reveal all the sides of a person is time. The trick to a good first impression, then, is reconciling the fact that no first impression will completely give off the “true you” with the knowledge that you can still depict yourself in a positive light.
Knowing this truth takes a lot of pressure off. You just have to put yourself out there and hope for the best. Focus on what you want to express in your first encounter with this particular person and try to get that across as best as possible.
If you are successful at highlighting the traits that are specific to both what you want to convey and what the other person is looking for, you will most likely succeed in landing a job, getting a second date or making a new friend.
And once this happens, the first impression is out of the way and, with time, the other person can slowly learn about all of the characteristics that make you, you.
And now I wish you luck; in the words of Phil Dunphy, “You only get one chance at a first impression. I suggest Julia Child because it’s easy to do.”