I know there’s been studies done on this. I started to wonder who the audience was that they studied.
I wondered if it is was neurotypical, corporate-types. Those where quick-thinking, surface-level, impress-me stuff is necessary.
As a neurodivergent, introvert who is reluctantly accepting that everything takes longer for me, including building and maintaining deep, comfortable, fulfilling relationships, I got to thinking (not for the first time) about what my first impression is like in the people I have met most recently. And most recently I mean 15 months ago in a psychotherapist’s supervision group where we process, empathise, question, reflect, adapt and work to remain open.
I feel myself in this group now. Last year, as a newbie, I was very much on the edge, and even though I knew that, felt that and was okay with that, I have felt a tangible (although is it, maybe visceral?) change in how I feel a part of that group. Crucially, I now feel a part of it.
If the first impression I leave with everyone is stand-offish, quiet, closed, hard to get to know or confusing because I give mixed signals as I move between communication through my mind or my body, then am I doomed to not have close, friendly relationships ever? Obviously that’s not the case. Which is why I started thinking about where this soundbite came from. Or who it applies to.
I wonder how much it applies to therapists and other empathic professionals where prejudice is trained out of us. Well, we’re taught to accept we all do it but then to make a choice whether we hold it or stay curious about the parts of the people we’re interacting with.
So, if you choose a different circle, do you need to worry so much about first impressions? Do we just trust that most people have discernment and understand humans are complex, changeable creatures and you should never take anyone on face value/first impressions.
Or maybe we don’t have a choice. Maybe sub/unconscious processes mean we really don’t have any way to alter the initial ‘imprint’ we make in someone’s psyche? Is this what is being referred to? Is this what slowly changes in my relationships where people start to learn the louder, more outgoing, able-to-connect parts of me?
I do have long-lasting, deep friendships, and the people I met in the supervision group last year continue to welcome and engage me. I can only assume that there is a reciprocal process of attunement and adaptation to the Self we bring each time we meet and as this builds over time, whatever impression was set initially, each meeting thereafter overlays that with new information.