As leaders, we are often expected to make quick and accurate decisions, right?
Our world demands fast action and razor-sharp responses. Leadership, sales, networking, and business in general have scads of pithy sayings which focus on the idea that you only have one shot to convince someone else to trust you.
I have often been told that my upcoming meeting with a Very Important Person was critical and they will decide whether I am worth spending any time or money on in an extremely short period of time which starts as soon as I show up … which does not leave me relaxed, confident, or at my best.
… Have you ever thought someone was just beautiful, fun, neat, or some other type of “Cool” when you first met them, but later decided they were not quite all that?
In critical thinking, one of the things we talk about is the ability to separate the person from the idea. This is like that, except you are not separating, but allowing your impression to go deeper and be formed by more than that first few seconds or minutes in that particular context when you were in that exact mood.
Do first impressions count?
Sure … sometimes a first impression is all the chance you have to set up a relationship with another person.
Are first impressions always correct?
Nope … sometimes they are completely inaccurate for any number of reasons.
As a matter of fact, I can name several women who have lived their lives with a fairly negative view of me, based on my first perception that they were beautiful and I was not worthy. This translated into boorish behavior fueled by an extraordinary amount of alcohol. Not a good combination … and it created a first impression of me that was impossible to alter.
In business, we talk much of the time about business relationships, but then we tout the old and inaccurate sayings about first impressions.
Here’s a few guidelines for creating perceptions based on good judgment, and not just first impressions:
Give It a Chance …
If time really is money, invest it with the same care and long-term view that you should be using with real money. Time is a valuable resource and investing time in a relationship outweighs snap decisions with a limited amount of information to guide you.
If you see consistent behavior over time, you have confirmed your initial thoughts. If you are surprised by varied degrees of behavior, you have just been reminded that most of us are multi-dimensional.
Be slow to judge, rather than quick … what’s the rush?
Consider the Context …
Think of behavior within a spectrum and not as a finite point or event.
Base your eventual perceptions on established behavior over time. Look for the average and consider it in the context of the standard deviations. In other words, pay attention to how the person acts most of the time and how far and how often they stray from their behavioral center.
For example, I am seldom at my peak performance from 1 PM to 3 PM each day … catch me early or catch me later and I will astound you. Between 1 and 3, I resemble a Zombie.
After all, none of us are on our best game all the time.
Be Humble …
If you accept that none of us are perfect, this third aspect is easier to handle. If you do believe in perfection, I have a very nice bridge on special for a cash offer …
Part of this is perspective … you are not the only participant in this dance. After all, the other person is forming THEIR FIRST IMPRESSION OF YOU now as well. Maybe judging everything in terms of “me” is not the ideal way to do. The old “Do Unto Others As …” idea comes into play here.
Remember, you are just two human beings trying to get through life and a rushed decision based on first impressions may just be the worst decision you ever make.
Trying to remember to give the other guy a reasonable chance in the Heartland ….