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Why do first impressions matter?

I personally have been in a lot of denial about how important first impressions are. In retrospect, I think the denial is rooted in the fact that I don’t like to think about people judging me the first time they meet me. There is so much about me that you can’t tell by looking at me, or by shaking my hand, or by asking how my day was. I – like an onion – have layers. We all do. We all know that, too. Yet, first impressions are still a thing.

I never have met somebody and thought to myself, “huh, there’s a human I know nothing about and that I shouldn’t make any assumptions about until I really get to know them.” NO! I’m all of a sudden Nancy Drew, looking at what their wearing, how their standing, how they speak, how they interact with others. Then, I make my own decision as to who they may be and what their motives are.

I’ve been doing a few college/job interview type things recently, and while prepping for them, I realize how much is resting on what my answers are. And what I chose to wear. And if I make eye contact. And if I shake their hand firmly. All those things, clothes, eye contact and handshakes, are subjective. You can’t really tell anything about how smart or nice I am because of those actions. We are just told that it’s polite to shake hands and powerful to make eye contact.

I think the real problem I have with first impressions is that it feels like I’m playing into the system. It feels like I’m giving in a playing the game. Of course I value being polite, and I will shake hands and make eye contact because I appreciate both of the those actions when someone does them to me. But first impressions are rarely a lasting impression. One of my favorite things to ask friends is what they thought of me the first time we met. It’s almost always so far off from what they think of me now.

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