What happened is this: I went to a meeting. Many of the people there didn’t know all of the other people there. Introductions were made and there was much shaking of hands, both at the beginning and close of the event.
One woman nearly tore my arm off.
As the tiny bones in my hand turned to dust, while the tendons in my shoulder area ripped and rearranged themselves, I found myself thinking of crocodiles. That quick impression of being pulled underwater by a hungry crocodile is how I’ll always remember Ms. Crocodile arm. It’s probably not the avatar she intended to leave imprinted on my or anyone’s brain.
It’s a quandary, isn’t it, that the things about ourselves that form first impressions are not things we can analyze and adjust? We can’t feel our own grip on another hand or experience the force of our personality. We can’t even rely on the feedback of a trusted friend or loved one because they already know too much about us to be a reliable sounding board.
Should we even try? For starters, first impressions are tainted by the predelections of the audience. I may find a tipsy, barefoot Dennis Quaid quite charming while you find him arrogant and unsanitary. And how much of a first impression is chemical? Did you ever have an instant attraction or repulsion that seemed more instinctive than logical? You can be dressed the right way, have the proper strength of grip, just the right amount of eye contact, and still repulse a person through no fault of your own. As my grandmother used to say, “You can’t please everyone”. Ain’t that the truth? Isn’t it more important to understand what you think of a new acquaintance? After all, you have to be with yourself 100% of the time but you can mostly avoid people you don’t like.
My husband, BigB, has a talent for first impressions. Most people like him. Animals love him. Kids love him. I’ve been on the receiving end of his first impression. What I remember is the warm smile, the curiosity in his eyes, his intellect. He has a way of focusing on the person he’s talking to. It’s unselfconscious. He’s thinking more about who you are and whether he likes you. “Who’s this?”, he asks himself. “What’s their deal?” And then he tries to find out. He’s the one collecting the first impressions.
I think one of the secrets to both happiness and success might be collecting first impressions rather than making them.