Forming Extreme Impressions

by Emily Jasper on October 17, 2011

At what point can you start forming impressions of people you will carry with you into the future? Being back in school, in an environment that allows me to interact with all kinds of people, I have had the opportunity to evaluate the concept of the “first impression.”

Oddly enough, I don’t feel like the “first” part is always true. For me, it is not so much how I may first remember meeting a person, probably because I may struggle with always remembering that first handshake. On the otherhand, if I have spent some time with you, then I find my impression of you is developed by the most extreme moments in which I observe your behaviors.

I say “extreme” because I think most of us behave in some kind of socially accepted norm. There are some who throw norms out the window, but this post is not about them. Instead, often the things that can stick out in your mind about a person are what we also consider “the little things:” timeliness, bad breath, reaction under stress, etc. For the most part, these little things are the negative ones that nag us. They are extremes to what you might consider a social norm.

So is it fair for me to form an impression off of these extreme impressions?

I don’t know about fair, but it could be human (we all judge, don’t we?). Perhaps it is because I have worked and am a bit older, but I find that even when I am in a social setting, I still think of the professional world. I hate it when I let myself slip and potentially impact the way someone could think of me. For example, my desire to be organized and early to appointments often means I may not always come across as very flexible. In a professional setting, staying on task and ahead of schedule could be really appreciated. A night out with the girls? I might be a Debby Downer.

The reality of the situation is that you never know what someone will think of you. If you are constantly late in a social setting, I am going to assume that’s how you behave professionally. Clearly you don’t respect your friends to be on time for them, how do I know you’ll respect the time of a colleague or a client whom you barely know?

The impression you make socially can be the one that people think of professionally. Will it cost you a recommendation down the line? Maybe, maybe not. Can you always account for each and every move you make and the impact it will have? No.

But perhaps it should be a part of your professional and personal growth. Seeing the big picture and the future down the line.

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