Wednesday, September 28, 2011

First impressions - should they count?

It'll all make sense if you can get past the boring intro...

One night, a few years ago, I was in the pub with my girlfriend; it was one of those nights that just gelled. It was perfect, and I was happy to talk to anyone. So, I'm up at the bar ordering a couple more pints of old tongue-loosener, and a geezer strolls up and says hello. He's in his fifties, bearded, with a neckerchief type thing going on - not somebody I'd have naturally struck up a conversation with (my first impression was already made). Initial thoughts were of an art dealer type, out for a glass of wine and a bite to eat.

"How's it going?" says I, and we continued for a few moments with the usual small talk.

Job jobbed. I thought that would be it, collected my beers and walked to our table. The geezer soon strolled across with a bottle of red and asked if he could join us. We were surprised, but said yes. He asked if we wanted to get a couple of glasses so we could share his bottle of wine - I was amazed! A total stranger offering us a drink. We declined, but began to chat.

Was I ever wrong about that fella!

Turns out he was a builder, working on a barn conversion, and came out for nothing more than a drink and pleasant conversation. An incredible character, with endless stories and far superior general knowledge than I'll ever possess. It really was a great night!

The next morning my wallet was gone! No, not really.

The next morning I began to recall certain parts of the night, and I remembered how I'd initially formed my opinion on him. One totally unfounded. Yet he didn't judge me once - if he had, I wouldn't have this example now. It made me think how quickly, and wrongly, we judge people based on that first impression.

Maybe:
  • A first interview that went badly - but the applicant's superb at their job.
  • Poorly-cooked food in a restaurant - maybe a one-off, sloppy mistake.
  • A parcel arriving late in the post - who's to blame? Or don't you care?
It's fact, there is only one chance to make a first impression, but how much are we missing out on because of it?

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