The Greater Impact of First Impressions

Have you ever watched two young children meet each other for the first time? They are usually introduced, look each other warily up and down for a few seconds and then one says something like, “Do you want to go and play on the trampoline?” Sometimes, prompted or not, it is off they go. Give them exactly three minutes and they are chatting and playing away, and within the hour they have become firm friends.

I observed this once on a family vacation in Sarasota. My then nine-year-old nephew Calli was with us at the pool, and very quickly found a new friend. All I had to say was “Calli, this is Mya and she is also nine.” Soon they were playing Marco Polo.

While watching this I was struck by the difference between adults and children when it comes to instant bonding.

In contrast, we adults are introduced to someone and the first thing we do is go through a long assessment of the other person based on all kinds of data. Call this pre-judgment, call this summing up, call this your first impression, whatever it is; it is phase one of making a new friend. Now, we may make additional effort, exchange cards and agree to get together again soon. This sometimes happens, but more than often doesn’t.

What if just once, we learned something from less judgmental and more open nine-year-olds?

What if next time you met someone you were more open and less wary.

What if you went into the interaction assuming positive intent? I am not suggesting that you grab their hand and go and jump on the trampoline, but I am suggesting that every now and again it may be good to get back the child-like quality of curiosity about another person. The child-like quality of openness and lack of judgment can do wonders. 

Life can be so stressful and difficult, and more often than not, when we meet new people we are preoccupied with our own issues.

So all I suggest is every now and again try and remember the nine-year-old.

Be open.

Don’t judge.

Know every person has potential.

Do something fun.

Laugh.

Make friends.