First Impressions Aren’t Always Best

This post about first impressions is brought to us from new contributor Barry Cooke. We’ve all been guilty of rash judgments so in like, we can relate to others who do just the same. Trusting your gut instincts are one thing, but coming to rash judgments without solid evidence and in spite of evidence disproving our initial assumption. And we all know what they say about assumptions…

We are all aware of age-old adages about the importance of first impressions. ‘First Impressions’ was, in fact, the original title of Jane Austen’s romantic classic Pride & Prejudice; owing to Darcy’s outright rejection of Elizabeth at a dance in Meryton, which she overhears and, subsequently, spends a good portion of the book being furious with him.

Apparently, we make our first impression within half a minute of meeting someone new and confirm it in under two minutes. Given this fact, isn’t it somewhat amazing that any of us are married or in a relationship at all? Our first impressions are unconscious and habitual; we are pretty much on auto-pilot when we meet someone. As soon as we see a person we rapidly digest their appearance, posture, body language and facial features and then form opinions about them based on a number of things from their scent to how they maintain eye contact. In fact, there are over three-quarters of a million non-verbal signs and signals that we give off, communicating to people around us who we are and what we are like!

It’s true that there are no substitutes for a good first impression and there are certainly no re-dos. I know friends of mine who are really attractive, pretty confident, light-hearted, funny and easy-going. But when it comes to that first encounter with a new man, they can often come across as being nervous, dull and predictable.

Many of us fail spectacularly at putting our best foot forward in those initial romantic encounters. In fact, for some of us it’s more likely that our best foot gets tangled up with our other foot and we end up falling flat on our face! We all want to be liked and loved for who we are and most of the time we are just too eager to package ourselves in an(y) appealing way. We also tend to assume that ‘he’ll get to know me after a bit of time’. Dating, however, is always within a competitive environment, no matter how it might feel. So if we fail to make positive and lasting impressions on the first date, will we even get the chance to go on a second?

The short answer to that question is no. The long answer, I think, though is actually more complex and is actually yes. It helps to keep Austen’s tale of Elizabeth and Darcy in mind at this point because even after Elizabeth’s prejudicial behavior and Darcy’s prideful rambling, which result in pretty disastrous first impressions of one another, they end up living together happily ever after (of course).

How many times have we thought that someone was really nice based on someone’s opinion we trusted only to discover later that really they weren’t? Likewise I’m sure we all know someone in our lives who, upon first encounter, failed to create a particularly good impression, we may have even instantly disliked them. But then, later on, they proved to be an engaging and thoughtful individual who we count among our good friends. Why is this?

Experts have a name for our tendency to covet the boy next door; they call it the ‘propinquity effect’. This basically means that the more we see someone, the more exposure we have to them or even the closer we live to them all contribute towards how easily we are attracted to them. The key here is to find the balance between seizing every opportunity to meet the object of your desires and annoying the hell out of them!

So it’s important that if you aren’t first date material, find yourself a second date. Change the setting and use humor to defuse any embarrassing situations, both can make things much more comfortable and mean that you have an easier time connecting with one another. There are two big reasons that people don’t go on second dates. The first is not being physically attracted to the person. There’s not much you can do about that! The second is the failure to feel any kind of ‘spark’. There is a lot you can do about this though.

If you weren’t impressed by him first time round, you certainly aren’t going to lose out on anything by going on a second date. In fact, it could mean the difference between you finding a lifelong partner, a soul mate or a close friend. We know now that we tend to fall in love with people who we can psychologically identify with. This might mean that we are of similar backgrounds, have the same level of intelligence or share various core social values or beliefs. It’s only if you feel disrespected, in danger or that there are fundamental and completely incompatible differences in your values that you should make the first date the last.

In the end, nobody wants to be judged on one hour of their life and first impressions really don’t reflect how a relationship is going to be. So if you think he’s made a terrible impression, give him another chance because you never know. And if you’ve just made a rubbish impression on him and your instinct is to run off into a corner and pretend it never happened? Try and try again. Either way, you could be missing out on your future husband if you don’t.

This article was written by Barry Cooke. Barry is a respected SEO and usability consultant who has been working in search and social media for over 15 years in a number of markets from online dating to finance and travel. This is his Gravatar profile:

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