“I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but first impressions are often entirely wrong.” ― Lemony Snicket, The Bad Beginning
Please help me understand the impact of first impressions…..
I am always amazed at what life’s twists and turns bring forth. A recent meeting completely threw me. Following a number of phone conversations, I had the opportunity to meet someone from another company in a similar line of work to mine. Let’s call him Tim.
Great, I thought. The chance to share. To learn. To leverage and even possibly, work together. We had spoken on the phone before the meeting and the conversation flowed smoothly and I felt that the tone of the discussion meant that when we met, things would progress positively.
How wrong was I?
Since it was a business meeting, I dressed accordingly. Suit and tie. It was going to be an open discussion with Tim and one of his colleagues. I travelled to their offices and was there in plenty of time. I waited in reception for the colleagues to come out and greet me. Come the time, came the people.
Dressed, not in business suit attire, but casually, chinos and open shirts. Completely different to me.
Even worse was to come.
Just before I shook their hands, Tim looked me up and down and presented me with one of the least positive handshakes I have ever experienced. Some people’s are limp. Some are wet. Some are so aggressive that they seem to be trying to crush your hand rather than shake it. Tim’s was none of these. All I can describe it as a reluctant handshake.
I shook his colleague hand as well; a normal, positive one this time and we proceeded to a meeting room. We started the discussion and I knew from the start that things were not going well. Tim’s colleague led the discussion and we talked through a number of topics:- Such as best practices. How different companies manage the use of their resources to deal with particular problems. etc. During the discussion, Tim made a comment along the lines of “Your rather passionate about this aren’t you”. To which I replied, “Yes, I was”. More strangeness was to follow.
Unfortunately, Tim’s colleague had to leave and as soon as he left, Tim turned to me and said that he wanted to terminate the meeting there and then. No reason, just that he felt “that there was no synergy to us working together”.
I reflected on the whole event as I drove back to the office. How the initial telephone discussions had gone so well versus the face to face meeting. It really was down to first impressions.
I recall reading a book about our ability as humans to make snap judgements of one another and that these “first impressions” tended to stick. The book also referenced a study carried out in the USA where students were shown silent a10-second video clips of lecturers teaching. The students were asked to score the lecturers purely on the video clip. The students then started their semester and attended classes run by the lecturers. At the end of the term, they were asked to rerate them. The results were correlated and the result was that the scores matched, hence the idea that first impressions stick. By the way, the article on the 10 second video is below.
Article on the 10 second video article: http://ambadylab.stanford.edu/pubs/1993Ambady.pdf
Has the experience changed me? It has certainly made me more aware of first impressions and the power they have over people. Will it change my approach to how I meet people for the first time? Absolutely..
Do you have a story of a first impression that completely threw you? Have you been impacted by someone’s reaction to you on meeting them for the first time? Has your first impression of someone changed over time? The following quote says it all for me:
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”