Why First Impressions Are, In Fact, Everything

The other day, some co-workers and I were talking about waking up early. Eventually one of them said, “Yeah, that’s not a problem for you, Travis. You get to work at like 7 am!”

I haven’t gotten to work before 8am in the last 4 months.

BUT, during my first two months of work, back in January and February, I did get to work around 7. And because of that first impression, I will forever be the guy who gets to work early….even if I don’t.

Back in college (Wow, that’s the first time I’ve ever used that phrase!), I had a marketing professor who showed up to the first day of class wearing a suit. For the rest of the semester he wore jeans. On the last day of class, he wore a suit again and asked us what kind of clothes he had worn during the semester. Nearly everyone in the class said something to the effect of, “You always wore suits to class. You wore casual a couple times, but that was the exception.”

His one first impression became the “standard”, even though it wasn’t even close to the standard.

If you meet someone in a bad mood, you’ll always think that the default state of that person is a bad mood, even if they are in a good mood in your next 20 interactions. It’s not fair, but that’s how it is. It’s psychology!

We’ve been built to “size people up” in a moments notice, and to form a strong opinion of them quickly. For our ancestors, this quick judgment could be a life-saver, knowing whether to fight, run from, or accept a stranger.

Nowadays our first impressions aren’t quite as life-or-death, but our brain still places these impressions in high esteem.

So, when you first enter a new job or class or situation, err on the side of awesome. Because after that, regardless of what you do (within reason), you’ll stay awesome in the eyes of others.


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