You may have heard the quote “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” And although that is true, you have multiple opportunities to change that impression.
Occasionally our first impressions of employees, students, and other groups are negative based on the thoughts, experiences, and facts shared by others around us. It is hard to be unbiased especially when you haven’t had time to get to know these people or groups yet. In my first few months in my new job, I had a negative view of a handful of the groups I work with. All based on interactions and stories from reliable people across campus, people looking out for me and giving me a heads up as to what I might have to deal with. I tried really hard to put those things aside and form my own opinions, and by doing that – letting my guard down so to speak – and finding myself disappointed due to the actions of some of those groups being exactly what I was warned about. HOWEVER, given time, feedback, and opportunity many of those groups were able to change my impression.
I have been pleasantly surprised, and generally impressed by the ability for one event and the actions of a subset of a larger group to completely change the view I had of that group from Day 1. Although that first impression, and the other issues that arose throughout the year will always sit in the back of my mind, the most current experience has formed a new impression and that is the one that sticks moving forward.
From stereo types to first impressions the world is full of opportunities to judge others. While in everyday life this might be a safety mechanism in certain situations, it is generally good practice to reserve judgement. This is especially true in the work place. Typically you do not get to choose your coworkers and they do not change very frequently.
There are several questions I always try and answer because I judge or jump to conclusions about an interaction or action.
- Do I have all of the information?
- Did I really listen during the verbal interaction or did I just hear what I wanted to hear?
- Did I fully read and comprehend the written communication?
- Did I ask questions to clarify any areas I didn’t understand?
- Is there more going on that meets the eye?
- Does this person’s past experiences influence they way they respond to certain circumstances or communication style?
- Do I know about any events that may have caused this person to react this way in or out of the work place?
- Is this out of character for this person?
- Have I asked them how they are doing? Do they have too much going on? Can I help?
- Is my reaction based off of my personal insecurities or biases?
- How do my past experiences and influences affect the way I view interactions and people?
- Why did I have this reaction in the first place?
Remember to be slow to judge and quick to understand.