It often takes four, five, or more shows before a viewer gets “hooked” on a television series. According to a Netflix study, their viewers often don’t decide whether they like a series until after watching a few to several episodes. In other words, their first impression isn’t enough to determine whether they want to watch the entire season or series. Could, or should, the same be true for relationships?
Do you remember your first impression… of your boss or a coworker? …of your spouse or significant other? …of your new neighbor? …of your child’s teacher? Overall, was the impression positive? Was it negative? Perhaps you were ambivalent. There are many factors that contribute to those first impressions. Most of them are circumstantial and subconscious. Some are controllable and intentional. Only a few are objectively relevant. The strongest are likely emotional factors that might not be entirely fair to the other person and to yourself. Are first impressions fair?
Is it fair to create a summative evaluation of a person based on those first 15 seconds of interaction?
Think about the person you know best, the person with whom you have the deepest, most abiding relationship. Given the dynamics and depth of what you experience together today, would it have been fair to judge the potential of that relationship in the first few minutes?
The night I met my wife, Julie, is almost as clear to me today as the day it happened. Our first impressions of each other were positive. (Highly positive! [Editing note: When Julie proofread this, she told me to place the exclamation mark after “highly positive.”]) However, what we learned about each other and the experience of that first evening together in 1984 is a single dot in the entire picture of more than 30 years together.
I can also recall meeting people about whom, initially, my thoughts were, “Oh dear. Am I going to be able to put up with this? Do I have to deal with this?” Over time, though, a relationship of trust, respect, and great care emerged.
How, then, can we remain open to what might be? How do we encourage a relationship that brings the most fulfillment to both parties?
Here are 3 maxims that will help you remain open to 2nd and 3rd impressions.
Giving 2nd and 3rd Impressions A Chance
First, every relationship benefits from maintaining a Biblical view of others. We are made in God’s image. Everyone. That simple fact requires each of us to look upon others with respect, love, and patience. This should be the foundation of seeking to discover, over time, what wonderful, creative work God has done in one another and building a relationship on that.
Second, each of use is fallen. None of us is perfect. Our mutual brokenness should serve as a reminder that weak or bad first (or second, or …) impressions should not be the end of a relationship.
Third, God has extended us immeasurable grace through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. We should do the same with one another as we grow in our relationships over time.
Would it be easier to to go with your first impression, gut response? Easier? Perhaps. More effective? Most certainly not. We all know that leadership, and strong relationships, require us to do hard things. We must do what others are not willing to do and take on more difficult responsibilities.
The next time you meet a new person, challenge yourself to maintain a Biblical view of the relationship, remember that you are no less broken, and extend grace.
That relationship might grow to become one of the strongest, deepest, and most mutually beneficial relationships of your life.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.