You only get one chance to make a first impression
First impressions are everything; or so we’ve been told.
It hardly seems fair that people form a large part of their perception of you based on the impression they gain in the first few seconds of your encounter. Lifelong relationships are formed (or not) based on a handshake.
If you think about it life is very much a series of first impressions. What is a job interview, if it isn’t a first impression?
Most dates aren’t blind dates, but there is always the first date and a first impression. Speeches, meetings, family gatherings all have an element of first impression about them.
If you get off on the wrong foot with somebody, it is hard to swing the momentum created by that first impression.
When you first entered the world, everybody counted your toes and fingers. I don’t know if they still do this, but when my daughters were born, they were given a score based upon appearance and vital signs.
The very first, first impression.
Many first impressions are started with a handshake. Originally, handshakes were a way to prove you didn’t have any weapons in your hand. Now they are standard fare for practically every greeting.
Think about the handshakes your have received. Undoubtedly you have experienced the whole gamut of handshakes, from the “limp fish” to the over-gregarious “double-handed pump and twist.”
Occasionally you will even get the, “my handshake is stronger than yours” digit-breaking vice-grip.
In our society men, in particular, are taught to develop a good handshake. As trivial as it seems, my guess is you can remember handshakes in your life that you truly believed opened a window into the soul of the person whom you were meeting.
I have always battled “bad first-impression syndrome” or BFIS. It isn’t the aforementioned handshake that has tripped me up in the past, it has been the words that followed ” or didn’t.
At one point in my life, I was shy. Painfully shy would be the apt description. It wasn’t just that I got cotton-mouthed and tongue-tied around girls, I agonized over answering the simplest questions in school.
I took the old saying about kids being better seen and not heard to the next level. I think my sister set up my first date, which probably ended in a handshake.
I envied the people who seemed to have all the friends and got all the dates because they were able to make a good first impression.
Job interviews is where I first felt the pain of not being able to make a good first impression. I stink at interviews. I think I come across as a nice guy, but not necessarily as somebody people believe can turn their company into the next Microsoft.
The problem, in my mind, is that it is difficult to convey qualities like loyalty, work ethic, willingness to adapt and the ability to listen in a job interview. Those are qualities that play out over time, not in a half-hour interview.
Learn to create a good first impression. A firm but not overly-aggressive handshake is good, as is a comfortable smile and the ability to look somebody in the eye. (Don’t overdo the eye contact part, some people find that disconcerting).
A weak handshake conveys the message that you lack confidence or you would rather be somewhere else. A firm handshake says you are glad to be there at that moment in time, meeting that person. Most of want to feel valued or needed and find it hard to dislike people who value our presence.
Bad first impressions can be overcome.
In a college intramural flag-football game, I nearly came to blows with an offensive lineman. He couldn’t block me (my version) or I was always offsides (his version).
We were both in forestry school and were later stuck in the same vehicle on a long trip to West Lafayette, Indiana. Somewhere along the way, we discovered we had a lot in common and became best of friends. Without that trip, however, we would have both been stuck with that first impression.
First impressions aren’t necessarily everything. They don’t always tell the whole story. Be willing to look beyond that first impression and see if it is accurate.
In the meantime, start every meeting with a good handshake.
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