Wednesday, August 23, 2006

First Impressions Can Tell a Lot

Obviously, first impressions miss details of many folks. However, they help make reliable guesses and provide a basis for initial interaction.

For example, I just saw a guy in the Downtown skyways walking about… something tells me he’s a little odd. Not lame, not an ass, not weird… just a little odd. He was dressed in a slightly ill-fitting grey suit. He wasn’t groomed very well, but not poorly. He carried a thin shopping bag under his arm, but inside his suit coat. He also bobbed a bit as he walked and slightly blocked folks by standing toward the middle of the escalator. Now I didn’t see his facial expressions, watch his eyes, hear his voice, see gestures, or anything else. Those factors can tell even more.

Another example, not long ago I met a guy with a small head, slightly poor posture, beady eyes, a nervous laugh (when he allowed himself to laugh), and often an intentionally blank and expressionless face. He occasionally answered questions with answers that didn’t provide enough information… leaving those involved guessing. (This might be a tactic or just a lack of social skills.) In fact, his conversations are so lacking in detail and are so vague that his comments, questions, and statements might easily get mistaken for hostility. Maybe he actually is hostile to some folks… or seeks to attack others in a conversation… or maybe he’s defensive… or maybe that is how he deals with subordinates.

In any event, the brief encounter left me thinking that this person is a prick… at least in some professional settings.

One more? Why not? I recently mentioned Mohrghaine Mother-Earth... truly one of the most obnoxious, socially handicapped, incompetent, female jerks that I have unfortunately encountered. Just thinking about her (and I use that assignation quite broadly) makes me want to shower with an industrial strength cleaners and sandpaper. The thought of her voice makes me want to destroy my ears. If I were to meet her ever again it would be 20 billion years too soon.

When a co-worker (or co-peon) introduced me to her my Spidey-Sense didn’t so much as tingle as quake. She was poorly groomed, poorly dressed, poorly mannered, poorly behaved, and acted like an aggressive, yet passive/aggressive, asshole.

From there it got worse.

This is why our parents often told us to look up and not down to the ground, to smile even when you are sad or angry, to pleasant and agreeable rather than difficult, to be nice to others in general.

After all, if someone is going to make a mistake on a first impression wouldn’t you rather be thought of as more polite or more pleasant than you really are as opposed to more obnoxious or more unbearable than you really are?


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