There’s a lot in the media today about how various people react to strangers.  If you grin at a stranger doing something odd, it might be reported as a smile or a smirk and perceived as making fun of them.  But only the person making the expression knows what they mean by it, if they even know.

“First impressions matter. Experts say we size up new people in somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes”

Elliott Abrams

It made me think about what causes first impressions; in other words, what makes us judge someone one way or another. Those causes can probably be split into two categories, immediate first impressions and impressions that are developed over shorter or longer periods of time.

Causes of immediate first impressions are:

  • Gender – we act differently when we meet a man or a woman
  • Age – our personalities are adjusted whether we are meeting a baby or an octogenarian
  • Race – whether we realize it or not, we modify our approaches and conversations if the person we are meeting is Chinese, Indian or any other race that we are not
  • A person’s height and weight cause us to be sensitive to those characteristics
  • The same is true of a person’s looks, voice, smile, handshake, personality and modesty or arrogance

All of these things cause us to automatically make judgments about the people we meet, whether we are conscious of it or not.

“When you see a person, do you just concentrate on their looks?  It’s just a first impression.  Then there’s someone who doesn’t catch your eye immediately, but you talk to them and they become the most beautiful ting in the world”

Brad Pitt

Then, over time, other traits emerge and are recognized which cause us to further judge the person we have met.  Does the person appear to:

  • Be trustworthy and honest
  • Possess integrity
  • Be responsible
  • Be fair
  • Be caring
  • Be kind and show empathy
  • Demonstrate perseverance
  • Display good manners
  • Use proper language

These are all effective gauges of what a new acquaintance is all about but, for me, the one most telling characteristic is whether a person respects other people, especially those who may be in a different social class.  If the new acquaintance disrespects someone who is rendering them a service, I have no time for them and will not welcome them as a friend.

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