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Some questions about first Impressions

I have a couple of questions about first impressions. 

  • How important do you think it is to make a good first impression when you meet a new person?
  • What do you judge people on when you first meet them?
  • Have you ever made a judgement about a person, but when you actually talk to them and get to know them, found out that what you thought was completely wrong?
  • (Don't worry, this is my last question) How do you feel when you find out that the judgements that you made about a person turn out to be completely wrong?
  • Expert Answers

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    Schopenhauer wrote an interesting essay "On Physiognomy," in which he says:

    Accordingly, it is then said that 'most people gain on closer acquaintance', yet it should be 'delude on closer acquaintance'. But when serious instances later occur, the judgement of our first glance is often justified and scornfully vindicates itself....

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    Schopenhauer wrote an interesting essay "On Physiognomy," in which he says:

    Accordingly, it is then said that 'most people gain on closer acquaintance', yet it should be 'delude on closer acquaintance'. But when serious instances later occur, the judgement of our first glance is often justified and scornfully vindicates itself. . . . Another cause of the so-called gain on closer acquaintance is that, as soon as we converse with the man whose first sight warned us of him, he no longer shows us merely his own true nature and character, but also his education, that is, not merely what he really is by nature, but also what he has appropriated to himself from the common property of the whole of mankind. . . . But if we come to an even 'closer acquaintance', his 'bestiality', promised by his face, will soon 'make a brilliant revelation'. Whosever is gifted with a keen sense of physiognomy must, therefore, carefully note its utterances which preceded all closer acquaintance and were thus pure and genuine. For a man's face states exactly what he is, and if it deceives us, the fault is ours not his.

    I don't know whether Schopenhauer is right or wrong, but I do know how painful it is to realize, sometimes after many years or even after much of one's lifetime, that a person we liked and trusted was undeserving, to say the least, of our trust and liking. I really like Schopenhauer's idea that "a man's face states exactly what he is." If we can't trust our own impressions and feelings, what can we trust? These impressions and feelings were not given to us for no purpose.

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    I most pre-judge people based on their attitudes, demeanor and mannerisms. If someone doesn't speak back to me after I speak or if someone appears agitated or irritated over the slightest things, then I will think that's the way they generally are. For instance, when a customer is getting snappy with the cashier, I just assume that person is not having a bad day, but that's the way they always are. And of course I could be wrong, but I believe that when we;re in public we should try to put our best foot forward and be as polite as possible.

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    I like question #3 the best because I have had a lot of experience with it. I can't tell you how many times my first impressions have been wrong. It shows that judging people by their looks or their speech is not very reliable. However, it's almost impossible not to make judgments based on first impressions. The important thing is to be willing to adjust those judgments based on the experience you have with the person.

    First impressions can definitely be overcome over the course of time. To think that they are permanent is a mistake. Eventually a person's actions reveal their true character.

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    While it is true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, I do not think everyone judge's you by the first time they see you.  People grow and develop over time.  A person really needs to consider not just first meetings, but second, third, and even fourth meetings before making a real impression of a person.

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    I have to admit that I judge people at least to some degree on the way they look.  I make judgements based on the kinds of clothes and hairstyles that people choose.  This is not the same as judging their attractiveness.  Instead, it has to do with making assumptions about who they are based on the decisions they make about how to present themselves in public.

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    Answers to the four questions:

    1. I think it's very important to make a good first impression when you meet a new person as it is the key that opens the door to further conversation and discussion with the person. Being amiable, smiling, and being interested in the person from the get-go is the first step in building rapport with the person.


    2. I look to see if the person is approachable and likewise amiable and interested in meeting me and learning about me as well. In essence, it's the Golden Rule - I hope he or she treats me the way they wish to be treated. Therefore, right at first introduction, I look to see if the person is open to a friendly conversation.


    3. Yes, I've made a judgement about a person, and then found out I was totally wrong and off base.


    4. I feel ashamed and angry with myself if I pre-judge someone and then find out I was wrong. This is in the case of pre-judging someone negatively and then finding out I was wrong and finding out that the person is actually a fine human being.

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