First Impressions

“In psychology, a first impression is the event when one person first encounters another person and forms a mental image of that person. Impression accuracy varies depending on the observer and the target (person, object, scene, etc.) being observed”.

They say that people form their first impressions within 7 seconds. 7 seconds!! You look at the person opposite you and you take in a mixture of their physical appearance, clothing, language, firmness of their handshake and any other clues – verbal or non-verbal that are on offer and you form your opinion – as quickly as that.

Yesterday someone at work said the following sentence to me: 

 

“I’m scared of you”


I still cannot believe it. 

For the record, I am not even 5ft tall and I’m anxious, nervous and insecure at the best of times. My boyfriend laughs at me when I’m angry and people often call me “cute” (which I hate).  Nobody has ever said anything like this to me before. She went on to say that it’s nothing I’ve done to make her feel that way.  She also said that numerous colleagues have told her that they like me and that I’m nice, but either way, that’s how she felt. 

It’s really playing on my mind!  How much attention should we pay to these things? 

I think I’m fairly confident that this is more about her than me, but still…. I feel bad to think that anyone would find me unapproachable or intimidating. 

I thought this lady, who is about 10-15 years older than me, was extremely confident herself. In fact, in the past I’ve thought she has looked at me in a rather patronising way.  But from what she told me, she isn’t confident at all… so what’s going on here?

They say that when you are judgmental of someone, you are actually judging yourself.  Carl Jung said,

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

So if that’s accurate, then does that mean that I’m patronising and she’s… intimidating? 

I guess I should be secure enough in myself/in my self to know that her first impression of me is not a true reflection of who I am and just shrug it off.

I’d love your feedback on this.  What do you think people would make of you in a 7 second time frame and would it be accurate? Or have you ever formed an opinion on somebody and later realised you were wrong?

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29 thoughts on “First Impressions

  1. When I first met this girl (a long time ago) I thought she was a bit of an over emotional drama queen. Now, 25 years later, she is one of my best friends in the world her “over emotional” behaviour is actually simply the behaviour of someone who is kind and sensitive and something I absolutely love about her.

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      1. She’s a highly sensitive person and cries very easily. Even now I live in NL and she still lives in Ireland. She cries when she sees me and when I leave. I’ve accepted it as part of her and the highly sensitive person that she is.

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  2. I used to do the same thing. Form an instant impression of someone before giving them a chance. Through my own self work I realized I didc that as a form of self protection. Decide someone was not going to be nice/good/kind or whatever to push them away first before I could be hurt. I’ve learned how much I missed by doing that and have worked hard to give people a chance now.

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  3. Why did she tell you that, I wonder? It’s very interesting to hear what people’s first impressions of me are. Most people think I’m confident I think. Which couldn’t be further from the truth. My husband said his first impression of me was “fiery and passionate.” LOL

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    1. Haha I like that! Fiery and passionate are great traits I think!

      Well, this is the thing… she has been caught in the middle of a load of gossip about a lot of people at work and she was trying to “make amends” I’ve never had much to do with her until yesterday when she said this to me!! X

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  4. I would let it go and think no further about this co-worker’s issues. My ex-husband used to say I scared him when I finally started standing up to him. He’s 6′ 3″ and I am 5′ 3”! I think its weird that she would share this with you. Keep your distance.

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  5. People say they are intimidated by me too! But I am actually very sensitive and kind. I think people pick up on am energetic level that I’m confident and assured and don’t take no shit. I also know who I am and don’t conform or mince my words. My best guy friend is still scared of me! Because he doesn’t know what I’ll say next. I rarely attack others but I have had to learn to defend my own sensitivity so maybe my self assurance is what people wish they had. I imagine so. I wonder why that person told you her perception so openly? What did she hope to gain from it? Interesting!! 😊

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    1. See I am a bit different at work, I am confident in my role and I’ve been there for ten years so I know everyone well – I guess I might come across as self sure? I’m always very busy at work so probably run around a lot but equally I’m always smiling and chatting and happy so I wouldn’t think I came across as intimidating… especially to someone older than me.

      My friend and my boyfriend think she’s said it for a sympathy vote because she’s been caught spreading gossip about loads of people (not me yet as far as I know!!) so they think she said that so I feel sorry for her?!

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  6. I definitely echo everyone else, this is her issue not yours. But I would say it’s because she is feeling insecure, perhaps because of the gossip drama, and if you appear confident and secure then that would intimidate her just because she’s not secure so doesn’t know how to hold her own alongside you. I imagine she is comparing and coming up short. Approaching you to tell you that would suggest to me she knows she doesn’t really have cause to be scared, but can’t remove that feeling on her own so has taken the risk to test the waters with you, so you can remove it for her. That results in a feeling of safety, as you may not become her best friend all of a sudden but she’ll be able to discount you as a strong influencer joining those that are against her.
    That’s my evaluation anyway 😊

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    1. Oohhh this is very good food for thought!! Thank you for taking the time to write that – that has really helped me to look at things in a different light. I’ve calmed down over this since last week but was starting to feel very “what nonsense” about it so you’ve helped me to feel a bit more empathetic
      xx

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  7. Did this person explain why she feels “scared” of you at all? It seems a weird/ provocative thing to say out of the blue. You mentioned that she’s looked at you in a patronising way before….maybe you didn’t react to her condescending manner in the way she wanted you to, so now she’s trying to make out that *you’re* the bully for having the audacity to not be intimidated. ( I’ve had people try that trick. Some people interpret kindness/friendliness as weakness, so their predatory nature comes out and they try to take advantage of this perceived weakness. When your reaction doesn’t yield the desired results, and their obvious miscalculation of you is revealed, they try to make YOU feel bad for THEIR mistake. It’s pathetic, and the mark of a deeply insecure person. Not that having insecurities makes a person bad, mind- we’ve all got them. But there are honest and dishonest ways of dealing with them…).

    On the other hand, perhaps she was trying to come clean and explain her behavior? I don’t know enough about her or the conversation to know….but go with your instincts….best of luck!

    It’s always strange to hear other people’s first impressions of oneself, isn’t it? I’ve had a friend tell me once that when she first met me she thought i was the most confident person she’d met. That knocked me over! I’m not sure how she was getting that….i’m very introverted. It seems that a lot of people interpret my unconventional dress sense/ style as evidence of huge amounts of confidence. I don’t really understand this, as i dress simply dress in ways that make me feel good, like anyone else. We can place far too much emphasis on people’s appearance! Then again, i suppose that’s the only info we’ve got to go on until we actually talk to a person. Didn’t realise it only took 7 seconds, though! That’s crazy.

    Actually the funniest mutual dumb assumptions i’ve experienced were with people i ended up later becoming really close friends with! One was this really stunning lady from Colombia; the night we met was through mutual friends, and she appeared to be looking down her nose at me all night. “Jeez, what an arrogant snob” i thought. She was very standoffish. I felt that she thought she was better than me due to her looks. Turns out she’d been thinking the same of me. I used to dress quite outlandishly, and she’d interpreted that as me being an “attention seeking show off”. Lol.
    Another good friend i’d initially written off as being an annoying airhead…turned out to just be A.D.D. She was extremely intelligent. But her spaciness, mixed with the fact that she looked like the classic “blonde bimbo” informed my initial opinion of her. Oops.
    Yet another guy i met who i initially thought must be a a scary, creepy biker ( because he looked like a scary, creepy biker), ended up being a super intelligent, hilarious,creative genius- one who i ended up forming a huge crush on! Goes to show we should ignore first impressions and persevere! At least until we’ve had a good chat, anyway.

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