From the First Impression to the Last

Something I have learned from cultivating relationships is that your first impression of someone can be widely different from your fifth impression. And different still from your eightieth impression – and I think all of them are valid. We talk a lot about making a good first impression but the thing is people reveal different things about themselves each time we interact. I can’t count all the times I’ve laughed with friends about our first impressions because they change so vastly throughout the friendship.

First impressions can be awkward, we can be nervous meeting for the first time or trying so hard to make a good impression that our personality doesn’t get to shine through. Someone might make a great first impression and a bad second. We could make a terrible first impression and a great fifth. The point is that sometimes it takes longer to get to know people. It takes patience and seeing past differences or bad impressions and a belief that people are good.

A band I admire called Penny and Sparrow shared a video today that explained how one of the songs on their most recent album was about their frustration that there is such a divide between people in the world today and that “there are human beings that we have very strong opinions about that we have never met with, broken bread with, or spent any time with”. In the video the lyricist explained his idea that “once you get to know someone it makes it way harder to attribute senseless hate or senseless judgement”.

These words reminded me of the chapter People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In, in Brené Brown’s newest book. Looking at the world it can be easy to generalize, to use bad first impressions to make assumptions about people without getting to know them. But once we invest in getting to know and understand people the picture looks different. She explains that in her research she found the people with the strongest sense of true belonging (being your most authentic self and believing in your self) stayed ‘zoomed in’ on their community. Brown wrote;

“They didn’t ignore what was happening in the world, nor did they stop advocating for their beliefs. They did, however, commit to assessing their lives and forming their opinions of people based on their actual, in-person experiences. They worked again the trap that most of us have fallen into: I can hate large groups of strangers, because the members of those groups who I happen to know and like are the rare exceptions.”

Recently I moved to Florida and I didn’t know anyone in the state beofre I arrived. The experince has been full of making a lot of first impressions and meeting a lot of new people. It has been a growing process, stretching my comfort zone and has shown me so much about appreciating unique differences and points of view. It has been a privilege to get to know these people and learn from them.

The take away I want to leave with you is this: everyday we make good and bad impressions on people.

Sometimes people talk about “true colours” and attribute bad behavour on a bad day to who we really are. The thing is that people are more complicated than one action or interaction. We see eachother at our best, at our worst, and my hope is that we can remember that someone’s true colours are when people are at their best. When we see someone struggling, we should offer help rather than judgement. And as we walk through the world be carrying a belief that at our core, people are good.

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