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First Impressions: Last or Not?

Posted on August 10, 2010 in Specials

By Divya Gupta:

Have you ever met a person whom you disliked at first because he/she wasn’t very pleasant to talk to and did not smile at all? But as you came to know more of him/her you came to realize that that he/she is a very fun loving and sweet person and you both turned out to be together forever! Had you remained fixated to your first impression of that person, where in you disliked them, would you have found the kind of happiness you later on did with that very person? In all likelihood NO!

It is human instinct to make an appraisal of a person or a situation at one glance. Your impression is what you portray according to your personality. For an impression to be called as First Impression, this must be your first meeting with a person. First Impression can be of two types — Planned and Unplanned. It is planned, when you are aware of it. What kind of first impression do you make? A first impression is the most important impression you’ll ever make – and you get only one chance to make it. Business deals can be made or broken, first dates become second dates or not, friendships are created or fail to form; everything hinges on that all-important initial encounter. And yet most of us don’t know how we’re really seen by others. But why is it so important to be perceived well by others? It is because Man is SOCIAL ANIMAL. We crave for belonging, appreciation and affinity. The researchers also believe that these quickly formed first impressions last because of what is known to psychologists as the “halo effect”. If people believe a person looks good, then this positive quality will spread to other areas, such as the person’s thinking. Since people like to be right, they will continue to befriend the person that made a good first impression, as this will further confirm that their initial decision was a good one. The reason cited for this is that the brain takes first-impression snapshots, making an amalgam of all the signals emanating from a new experience. Several studies have shown that it takes only about three seconds to evaluate a person we see for the first time. Visual appearance and behavior including demeanor, voice, mannerisms and body language–even accessories like watch, handbag or briefcase play a role in forming first impressions.

A survey among 164 college fresher men by two US professors Michael Sunnafrank and Artemio Ramirez Jr. at periodic intervals found that first impressions have a profound influence on determining the future course of a relationship. Researchers call this “predicted outcome value theory.”

People make snap judgments within the first few minutes about the kind of relationship they want with another person they just met. This will in turn determine the effort they are willing to put into developing a friendship with the person. Several studies in social psychology reveal that warmth, competence and physical attractiveness are the characteristics that impress people from start, across a range of business and social relationships.

But is it right to base our life decisions regarding people on first impressions? They can surely be misleading, though not necessarily so. If we are only capable of going with our first impressions, that suggests that we are incapable of evaluating new evidence and the implications for that are frightening.  Once upon a time, it was our impression that the sun revolved around the earth, that the earth was flat, that aboriginal peoples were stupid, that life could exist through spontaneous generation, and so on.

There is no doubt that your first impression is very important and most of the times you get only one chance to make that knocking impact. It is also true that usually you do not get another chance to rectify your first impression. However, if you are lucky enough to get another chance, hold that with both hands and make an everlasting impact. It is very important to know the type of person you are going to meet and what type of future you are looking forward, involving that person in your life; so based on that… one should be prepared. This is life and in life, there is no retakes… only one shot! It may not be the last one, but could surely be a long-lasting one!

The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.