Thursday, July 8, 2010

First Impressions

While recently working in the Temple cafeteria, I had the wonderful experience of serving dinner to Elder Richard G. Scott, Sister Madsen, (the sweet widow of Brother Truman R. Madsen) and their guest whom I am unsure but I suspect was a grandson of one of theirs.

I loved serving them and visiting with them. All were very complimentary of the food and service. It was such a pleasure to be in their company.

Upon returning to the kitchen, I was told by my fellow worker I had a green thing stuck in the middle of my teeth. Now, this was no small thing, it was a great big piece of leafy green lettuce. I was horrified considering the company I had just been in. Such is the way things go for me… I can laugh it off--several days later. But it has me thinking about first impressions.

First of all, I looked up the meaning of first impressions: It is a first consideration or judgment.

We are told we are not to “judge” or that we are to judge in righteousness. As I think of the definition and this warning coupled with the definition of “first impressions”—particularly the word judgment I can’t help but think how I am rarely correct with my first impressions of people. I find that often times those who I am most nervous to meet; that I feel intimidated by, are often the most down to earth and lovable people. In fact, it is true that in a some instances there are people I was terrified to meet, because I admired them so much for their talents, that turned out to be completely wonderful just by being themselves and not just defined by their talents. They became my some of my best friends. I admired them for first being who they are.

Then there are those who I feel I may have much in common with, seem to be the ones I end up least connected to and often the simple things we have in common, may in fact be our only link.

I have learned very well, to pay little heed to my first impressions, as they usually end up being nothing more than snap judgments and I would hate to lose out on some of the wonderful friendships I could have had because of a wrong first impression. (There are of course, an exception to this rule when a first impression warns you that a person is dangerous or could harm you, etc. In that case I would pay very close attention and follow it's promptings!)

So, if I have such a difficult time with my "first considerations," do others struggle as well? How do people perceive me for the first time? It makes me wonder. I may score more points if I don’t walk around with big green things hanging between my front teeth…

I have read that it takes 30 seconds to two minutes for people to make up their minds about you. This may be way overestimating things. I have also read it takes seven seconds to seventeen seconds to make a first impression. Whichever is correct, that doesn’t give a person much time to make a lasting consideration or to have a judgment placed on them. I do know that it is said, “You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.”

I found an article written by Bill Lampton who has a PhD,. He made a list of seven things that make a good strong first impression. I won’t quote him of the article in it’s entirety, some is not word for word, but I thought the ideas were good. And if I may, I’d like to add and eighth one to the list at the bottom. So here we go:

1. The greatest way to make a positive first impression is to demonstrate immediately that the other person, not you, is the center of action and conversation. --He says if the spotlight is only on you you’ll miss opportunities for friendships, jobs, networking, and sales, etc. If you show that you are other- centered, people will want to see you again.

2. Closely related: Use superb listening skills. Using prompts like, “How interesting!” or “What did you do next?” shows excellent listening skills and positive verbal cues. Maintain eye contact and avoid looking over your shoulder for an escape route.

3. Using the name of a new acquaintance shows you paid attention from the start. It also makes the conversation more personal.

4. Be careful with Humor. Although a quip or two may serve as an icebreaker, you don’t want sarcasm to backfire. You don’t know a stranger’s sensitivities.

5. Follow Dr. Wayne Dryer’s advice, offered in his in his book “Real Magic,” by “giving up the need to be right.” Confrontations with someone you’ve just met will spoil any rapport you can have. Wait until you can establish credibility before you challenge another’s statements.

6. Appearance counts. What he had to say here applied more for work or job interviews. But I still think the way we take care of ourselves portrays a message no matter where we are.

7. As a communication specialist, I have to point out that an individual’s speaking style impacts a first impression, maybe more than we wish—listeners judge our intelligence, our education, our cultural level, even our leadership abilities on the words we select-- and by the way we say them.

8. And the one I wanted to add was to not walk around with green things in your teeth. Perhaps this falls under the appearance category?

I do know that I tend to joke around a lot and I know I take for granted that people know where my heart is at. I would never mean to intentionally hurt or mistreat any one. But what of first impressions? Number four caught my attention and so did a few of the others on this list. And it all started with #8.

I know that I’ll be more mindful of my first considerations of people because to me, no second chances at giving a good first impressions seems—well, it just seems a little too judgmental for my peace of mind. :)

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