Instantaneous response; that’s what we have come to expect today. If Google takes more than a second to return its search results, we want to throw our computer out the window. And heaven help the car in front of us if they fail to respond to the changed traffic light before it happens.
A friend found an extreme example of this the other day. He received medication on which the pharmacy assistant had written, ‘Take 2 in the morning before you wake up’.
Unfortunately the rushed response is a habit we all practice. We are quick to pass judgement, to determine something or someone’s worth in a flash.
But, right or wrong, first impressions count, and first impressions are usually settled within the first few seconds of an encounter. It’s no good fighting it; sales people and job applicants have to come to terms with it and prepare accordingly. And, sometimes, those few seconds are all we can afford. When we feel threatened we are not going to wait around to find out if our first impression was right – we react, we run.
However, when we assume that our first impression is the last word on a subject, we rob ourselves and others of rich discoveries and meaningful encounters.
If we are doing a job interview, it is important to go beyond first impressions to find the real person beneath. Sometimes, of course, there isn’t anyone there, and our first impression is all there is to this person. But far more often than not, there is much more to learn, to discover and to enjoy in a person than the first impression we received.
A new church recently moved into a house in our neighbourhood. A lot of cars, a lot of coming and going and a lot of singing gave us our first impression which was: ‘There goes our peace and quiet.’
But, as we reflected, we realised that we have neighbours who listen to the TV late at night making sleep difficult; others who leave a motorbike idling for long periods and the occasional raucous party across the way. The singing from the Church is neither loud nor intrusive. In fact, it’s rather pleasant, and there is no shouting or raised voices. So, while the cars might block up our little road, our second impression is that there’s a whole lot worse than this particular group that could move into the neighbourhood.
Whether it’s a church in the neighbourhood, a new employee or someone you have known for a long time, however unnatural it may feel in this blink-of-an-eye world of ours, stop. Take time to listen to the person in front of you. Try to understand what they are saying and what is important to them. Only then begin to respond; respond to the real person you have discovered, the real issues you have uncovered, the new ideas that have emerged.
What do you think?