Theories

First Impressions – Should They Really Count?

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So today I want to discuss a famous expression and belief that many hold dear to their heart (or head) – first impressions.

I recently got into a huge debate with a friend about first impressions (although her sister called it arguing … Purely because I didn’t take her side 🙄). If there’s anything my friends know, it’s that I love debating … 99% of the time just for the sake of it. I’ll even debate my own arguments I’ve put forward and think about it at night and then think about it ALL night but it’s usually not so much a cohesive train of thought.

My friends opinion: first impressions are everything. You either get along with someone or you don’t and/or the first impression you get lasts. Now this debate originated from a recent date that she had which was arranged by two relatives of hers (modern arranged marriage process, guys). She’s more of a go-getter, corporate type and he is a shy teacher. (I was going to say introverted but being shy and introverted are not one and the same thing). Apparently he was a little overwhelmed by her bold and direct attitude from what she said about how the date went, although my other friend (incidentally her ex) said it was probably due to the fact that this wasn’t just a date for him, it was a potential marriage so therefore he was bricking it. Anyway, end result, she decided not to see him again because she felt they didn’t have a connection and his family was not as united as her family is and that that is her biggest priority in a marriage. Now the latter is fine, she’s very family oriented so she naturally would be looking for the same quality in a husband – even though, in an Asian culture, that attitude won’t always necessarily include the daughter-in-law as an actual member of the family and that anyone can create a false first impression of a big, happy family and once you get married, you realise that it was all an act (honestly, this does happen in some cases in Asian cultures, I’ve seen it happen to a former friends sister!). So ultimately it still goes back to not allowing first impressions to override actually getting to know the person better before deciding to pass any judgement on them. Unless they’re a sociopath, you’ll need some serious sort of Machiavelli detector shit to pick up on that or a therapist, I don’t know.

My other argument is that sometimes you might simply catch someone on a bad day and that doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person, it just makes them a human being. However, she said even if she was able to capture two first impressions – one on a good day and one on a bad day – the bad impression would override the good impression as its a preview of how the person will behave under stressful circumstances. For me, I believe that’s a more ‘it’s all relative’ counter-argument because there are way too many types of ways a person can react to a bad situation and different degrees to what constitutes ‘bad’ and only a narcissist would believe they’re exempt from bad behaviour. As long as the person is not raping, abusing, unjustifiably murdering someone (if it’s not absolutely necessary self-defence), even being a bystander to these actions or harming another person then it shouldn’t matter. However, the last behaviour listed can be considered quite shaky as I’m sure we’ve all harmed someone in some way, whether intentionally or not, at least at one point in our lives. A person can genuinely redeem them-self, feel remorse and change their behaviour but if we let that first impression count as our overall impression we probably won’t be able to stick around to see how they change that behaviour and overall become a better person (provided they didn’t commit either of the first series of crimes that is, excluding the latter).

An example of a first impression gone terribly wrong for me and a few others was during college when I first met this charming, bubbly and gorgeous girl. I think pretty much everyone was taken by her, men and women alike, and we all thought ‘aw, what a nice girl.’ And behold.. I’m sure you know what exactly went down. This is what Machiavelli informed us about – charming behaviour that is nothing but tricks and illusions, consolidating why charm is synonymous to bewitching. There’s a difference between being charming and genuinely nice – you say what you really mean as opposed to what you’re expected to say by society in order to please people. Anyway, she went and did some terribly questionable things that I simply can’t be arsed to go into. P.s my friend from the early paragraph was also friends with her too. This just goes to show how deceptive first impressions can be, it doesn’t take a lot to deceive people.

Anyway, overall (trying to make use of my English Literature and Language education) I don’t believe in wholly relying on first impressions. Yes sometimes we intuitively know just by looking at someone exactly what they’re thinking (well I don’t know about you but I certainly do 🤓, just kidding… Not at all) it doesn’t necessarily mean that this is this person overall. We’re human beings, we’re complex, we’re layered and we are not just a first impression. I want to draw a parting science analogy: when we perform a scientific experiment, sample size is important and why is that? Because it needs to be tested in different conditions, to test the strengths and weaknesses of the subject … And then we can create an average, overall opinion. I also think ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ is also fitting even though the expression is based on physical appearances. You’ve just the read the cover, not the entire book. (Well that might take a while, at least sample a chapter or two).

Side note – why am I so sarcastic?

Anyways… Let me know your thoughts and opinions. 🎈✌🏽️

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