Don’t Trust First Impressions

Why is it that when you meet a person for the first time, you will quickly like or dislike him/her? What goes on in our minds when we have these reactions?

I had an “ah ha!” moment this morning when listening to someone for the first time on a video. I instantly disliked him. But as I listened to what he had to say and realized that I was in full agreement with what he was saying, it became obvious to me that my dislike was misplaced, and that bothered me. First it confused me, and then it led me to try to get to the bottom of why I had that first reaction.

As I continued to listen with this in mind, after awhile it came to me. He has the same voice that someone I truly do dislike has. So really, I was duped by my first impression which was automatic. Automatic but wrong.

This brought me back a to a job I once had in a large workplace. A woman came into my office and she wanted to vent her emotional hurt. I instantly disliked her. As she told the story of what was hurting her, I found myself very sympathetic to her pain. So later, I was left wondering why I instantly disliked her. It took awhile. I had to really think it through. Finally I found it! I realized that she looks very much like someone who had hurt me years before. So my instant dislike of her was very misplaced.

The mind, the soul, is a very complicated thing. My reactions were immediate, but my understanding was not. First I saw the very puzzling contradiction at having a reaction that was misplaced, and then I had to grapple with it until I found out why I had the reaction in the first place. And when I saw it I was shocked. It made me wonder about negative reactions to others and clued me in to be very careful with first impressions. That first impression could make me dislike someone for no reasonable reason, without my ever knowing it. But now I’m onto it and hopefully I will always distrust first impressions.



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