Monday, November 08, 2010

First Impressions: Chemistry

Jelly Bryce and Bill Jordan

Thinking about this one again, and while I don't have much new to bring to the subject, it's been awhile, so for the passing parade ...

We have, many, if not most, of us, a kind reflexive, quick-draw hip-shot when it comes to first impressions. You know instantly if you are gonna get along or not.

You meet somebody new and you have one of three reactions: 1) You like them. 2) You don't like them. 3) You aren't moved enough to care either way. 

I'm not sure it matters which happens, but it seems from my experience whichever the Augenblick reaction is, good, bad, or indifferent, changing that later is problematical. And for me, that's because more often than not, my first reaction turns out to be accurate when buttressed by the weight of later experience. 

It's like, "Well, this guy is an asshole." And you get to know him better, and nothing he does ever changes your feeling. 

Not to say that somebody you like won't screw you over later; nor that somebody you don't like might turn out to be better than you expected. Even the Meh reaction can be altered -- someone can grow on you. Always exceptions.

But I've found that in cases where the feeling is particularly strong, yea or nay, that impression tends to hold true unless I make a real effort to change it. And sometimes, when I thought I should make that effort and did, I wound up sorry I'd done it. Most of the time -- most of the time -- that chemical, gut-reaction, instant hackle-raising -- or big grin, is what the core of that person will be for me, no matter what I do later.

I'm thinking it's an atavistic survival characteristic. 

We've likely all met folks who immediately rubbed us the wrong way. Felt something decidedly odd or disturbing emanating from them, and then later, when they turned out to be bad apples, nodded sagely to ourselves. Yep. I knew it. First moment I met the guy. Might as well have had "Psycho" tattooed on his forehead ...

The problem with this kind of point-shooting is that while it's pretty accurate most of the time, now and then you miss, and when you do, it can mess you up. And that can rattle your confidence so that you trust your instincts less. Been there, done that, no fun. 

I bring this up because I am remembering a meeting with a fellow a while back whose mien was immediately off-putting to me. Salt-in-an-open wound, oil-and-water kind of thing. 

After a few seconds, I determined that he was the first part of Green Eggs and Ham -- I did not like him, Sam-I-am ... 

However, since I wasn't going to be running into him with any frequency, I shrugged it off and went on my way. Moot point. 

But, as it turns out, I will be seeing this fellow again in the near future. Now, to be honest, I suspect he is still a world-class asshat. Folks in that realm seem to cling to their idiocy. However; I have to allow for the notion that he has redeemed himself as a human being since last I saw him. And since I'm big into redemption, I am going to try to be as objective as I can be. No promises here, but I'm gonna make an effort. Not so much for his sake as for my own. Getting cocky about how sharp you are is a slippery slope, and I'd just as soon not slide down it on my backside to smack into a tree stump down the way. 

Been there, done that, too.

Wish me luck. I'll let you know how it goes ...


Dan Gambiera said...

Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare; Hoc tantum posso dicere, non amo te.

"I do not like thee, Doctor Fell
The reason why - I cannot tell
But this I know
And know full well
I do NOT like thee, Doctor Fell"

Kevin said...

Gladwell's book "Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking" deals nicely with this subject. Echoes much of what you say...first impressions can be powerfully correct under certain circumstances; difficult to change; and horribly damaging and wrong under other circumstances. Luckily we can train ourselves to be better at it..or at least realize when we might be wrong and try to do better.

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, I have that one on my shelf, along with some others I've found interesting:

Gut Feelings, by Gerd Gigerenzer
This is Your Brain on Music, by Daniel J. Levitin
The Body has a Mind of Its Own, by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee
Emotions Revealed, by Paul Ekman
Chaos, by James Gleick.
The User Illusion, by Tor Norretranders

Lot of research going on in this field.

Justin said...

I feel that once you are exposed to a person's faults, they're much easier to deal with. When I know someone has dickish tendencies, I'm not surprised when they surface again.

This almost-acceptance helps me befriend people who others are turned off by. And since you can learn something from everyone, I usually find that to be a good thing.

Steve Perry said...

Nearly as I can tell, the fellow of whom I spoke is still an asshat. A shame, but his karma, not mine ...