A first impression can last forever and like most things in life we are usually judged based on those first few mere seconds when we first meet someone. This became truly apparent to me last week when one of my colleagues at work was absolutely amazed to hear that my life started out in a small two horse town as an uneducated cleaner. At that moment his jaw dropped because he first saw me working on a complicated problem acting confident and in control. It was those few seconds that he judged me. Now he saw confidence and made his judgment on appearance. The tech that sits down from me looked frustrated bad lost even though she is just as good as I am if not better he judged as lost and weak. She is neither, but at the time he saw her and judged her she was caught in a stressful situation with an unreasonable customer. Now no matter how many good calls she takes that is how he will see her. In reality if he would have seen her on any number of other calls he would have seen a very different person. Why because 99% of the time she is the one in control.
Now I am not saying that I do not play my part because even when I am absolutely lost I sound confident because fifteen years working in call centers has taught me that being in control is more sounding confident then actually having all the answers. I am not saying I lie just that I sound like I know all the answers or that I know how to get them. My first job was a level 1 tech working for a popular computer manufacturer and during my training I was told when you are lost or cannot find the answer reinstall the pc. Our database crashed so I spent the rest of the day just reinstalling peoples computers. I took 138 calls and reinstalled 130 computers. I sounded confident so people actually thanked me for not having the skills to fix their computers and wiping the pc. I worked at that company for eight more years and during the rest of my career there I only wiped about 10 more computers, but the point is the impression the people received was that I knew what I was doing and had years of experience. My second day at that company my boss called me in for a meeting and he did not mention how big my screw up was, but how many of those 130 people had emailed the company thanking me for the great job I did. My average talk time was under 4 minutes and I learned a valuable lesson. Sound like you know what you are doing at all times.
Now I have also had the opposite experiences with first impressions. I am a very simple man with very simple roots. I was raised with the belief if it’s cheap enough, it fits and you need it then you buy it when it comes to clothes. Those around me call it the poor boy mentality. I have learned that if the clothes do not fit properly no matter what you do most people will judge you in a negative way. Add in the fact I am a 70s child so I always have long hair most of the time so a lot of people assume I am some kind of party animal. An example of this is my first trip to Israel when my colleagues immediately invited me to smoke a doobie after work. No I do not do any kind of drugs, but based on a first impression people thought I did.
On the opposite end of the spectrum I have witnessed an absolute ass get the girl because his shoes and clothes look absolutely amazing of him despite the fact the better man sitting right beside him does not have a lick of style in him. I have seen woman who are true ladies in every sense be called whores because someone thought their dress looked cheap or the big woman get over looked because her dress size is not the one that someone thought is the right size. People will always judge you on that first mere seconds of any meeting. I do it too, but life has taught me that if you can overcome that first impression you might find something wonderful. That whore might be an amazing woman who can bring something wonderful to your world, that big woman might be your soul mate and the guy dressed in cheap suit might be a millionaire. No that is not me, but the guy that owned the company my father used to work for wore overalls and rubber boots like most farmers. Even in the 80s he was worth a million dollars and was an eligible bachelor. Many woman who complained that there were no nice guys left did not take the time to get to know him. Outside of work he wrote poetry, traveled the world and owned houses in seven different countries. He married a simple waitress not because he was the prettiest or fit into a predefined dress size, but because she took the time to get to know him and laughed at his jokes. She took the time to look past the first impression and discovered that he offered a little bit of everything that she wanted and he found the mother of his children, companion for those long adventures exploring the world and the heart of a poet who wrote her I love you’s constantly.
Remember that award girl from high school who became a fashion model (yes I am sure it happens) or that nerdy guy that became a body builder and both appear to have been sculpted by the gods. It’s the person who forgot their first impression of them that and kept the second and third impression of them that brought something to their life and enjoyed the experience of knowing them year after year.
There is power in setting the right first impression, but even more strength in looked past it and finding the hidden second impression.