Monthly Archives: July 2012

Why I Distrust First Impressions (Part 2)

My first impression on meeting someone new is a very unreliable guide for the important decisions. In the workplace and even in the church, we often need to ascertain who is dependable or trustworthy. In my recent training, I have learned in some depth about the implications of our differing temperaments. I began to wonder whether I might simply be less skilled than others in employing first impressions for hiring and other important decisions. Perhaps I am, but I was intrigued a few years ago to encounter an excellent book by “America’s top jury consultant, Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, who can literally read a person like a book”. She wrote “Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior– Anytime, Anyplace.” As a jury consultant, her livelihood depends on adroitly culling those prospective jurors who are likely to view the accused adversely. Her excellent advice is invaluable for anyone who needs to assess individuals. Despite being a highly skilled and experienced predictor of individual behaviour, Jo-Ellan defers a decision as long as possible, because she knows there is always one more vital piece of highly relevant information that she doesn’t yet know. Thank you Jo-Ellan!
When I meet a client, I notice a limp handshake or a broad confident smile just like anyone else and I find that interesting but far from conclusive. So I endeavour to watch and wait and grant others the benefit of my doubt (thanks, golden rule!). When I coach individuals including jobseekers, my first impression of them provides nothing more than tentative information that I can share to their benefit when appropriate.

A future entry will address the challenges we have with those we experience as “difficult” in the workplace and other environments. I have identified more than 15 distinct reasons that my coworker might seem to be “House” or “Jezebel” in my workplace. Many of them have nothing to do with me but neither do they neessarily indicate an evil nature in the other person. For now, consider that every one of us is likely to be a “difficult person” to someone!

Do you record your first impressions in ink or pencil? Let me know!