Afiza’s Philosophy On First Impression

first impression wrong

Did you know that the original title for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was First Impression?

If you are a fan of classic literature, your answer would have been yes… because it is one of the most common trivia among ardent book readers.

history of pride and prejudice

Just like it is common trivia that Charlotte Bronte, Anne Bronte, and Emily Bronte had published their manuscripts under male pseudonyms of Currer Bell, Acton Bell and Ellis Bell because female authors were discriminated against in those times. Charlotte Bronte had said “We did not like to declare ourselves women, because we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.”

There is that word again! Prejudice!

Elizabeth Bennet was prejudiced against Mr. Darcy whereas Mr. Darcy was prideful towards Elizabeth Bennet, hence the change of title to Pride & Prejudice….maybe. I don’t know why Jane Austen changed the title, actually. For commercial reason, perhaps? ‘Pride & Prejudice’ certainly sounds more thought-provoking than ‘First Impression’, no?

But my post this time is not going to be on Jane Austen’s highly acclaimed novel. It is going to be about the pitfalls of first impression and why we should never give it more value than it is really worth.

***

Some people place too much importance on first impression. They would quote to you quips that they think as intelligent such as “Two things remain irretrievable; Time and first impression”. Or they would say “First impressions are the most lasting.” Then, they sell their products to you… be it whitening cream, clothing, shoes, tudung, perfume… with the tagline of “First impression is the deepest”. Haha.

But in my opinion, to be relying so much on your first impression of others, obstinately refusing to change your opinion even after you have had the opportunity to revise your first impression, is the height of wilful idiocy.

The word first impression itself is quite self-explanatory. It denotes lack-of-depth, lack-of-accuracy, lack-of-assessment. In short, it is just lacking, period!

And for those who insisted on how important first impression really is… well, MY first impression of such a person would be “You are too superficial! And we will probably never see eye-to-eye in most matters if this is the way you persist in making your judgment.” But then unlike them, I am more open to changing my opinion about them if they are able to show me evidence of the depth of their thoughts in our future encounters next time. Because again, unlike them, I NEVER put much faith nor stock in my first impression even when my first impressions have turned out to be right many times in the past (because I ALSO remember the times when I turned out to be wrong and I don’t want to persist in the stupidity of making snap judgment).

judge man's life

***

“So you don’t think first impression is important? How about when you are going for an interview? Would you dress shabbily? Would you arrive late? Would you not want to appear competent and successful?”

Look, first impression is important… but only up to a point…. and then, no more. THAT is what I am driving at! I repeat, first impression is only important up to a point… and then no further.

If it is as you had said “First impression is the most lasting”, I would be quite skeptical of your ability to learn new information and unlearn false information… there is something wrong in your cognitive flexibility (or your brain plasticity) if the first impression – regardless of accuracy – is the most lasting one for you!

Don’t you think?

Most of the time, I don’t remember my first impression of anyone. Perhaps, because it was never that important to me. I distrust it.

But once I have had enough opportunity (by the means of multiple encounters) to form an impression, then you will never get me to change my mind because THIS TIME, I have had enough encounters with you to be able to form a fair and accurate judgment of your character and temperament.

Still, it doesn’t mean I am not optimistic that you might later change some of your bad habits. But just go and change those bad habits first… then I will re-assess my judgment of you, even when I know that my first judgment of you was correct AT THAT TIME (because I actually made an effort in coming to that judgment, in the first place. I did not simply rely on my first impression and I actually have observed you multiple times before I arrived to that judgment). But now I am re-evaluating you because you have made some changes. If I change my mind about you, it wasn’t because I was wrong the first time…. it was because you have changed now and therefore I am willing to change my impression of you, accordingly.

That’s all.

umar
See? That’s why we should always reassess our initial judgment!

***

Muslims in general should not be putting stock in first impressions. I remember the story of Saidina Umar Al-Khattab R.A when he first arrived in Jerusalem after the Muslim army had been successful in their campaign to conquer the holy city from the Christians.

Abu Ubaidah R.A, the commander in chief of the Muslim army and himself a very pious man, suggested that Umar change his clothes so that the people of Jerusalem, accustomed to the pomp and grandeur of kings and emperors, were not dissuaded from handing the keys of Jerusalem over to him. Umar hit Abu Ubaidah hard on the chest and reminded him that the Arabs had once been a disgraced nation. What had brought them honour and elevated their status was Islam. Should they seek honour from anything else, they would surely be humiliated again.

Lesson learned: Don’t seek honour through the superficial means of your clothing/shoes/brands in an attempt to make a great first impression. Instead, seek honour through strength of character. And this is not something you can tell upon a first glance! It doesn’t work that way!

By all means… wear nice clothes to an interview. But not as a means to hide your real character, but rather to enhance them. Work on your character first…then you work on other superficial things that would reflect your real character!

By all means, be polite and speak nicely in order to create warmth and mutual good regards. But above all else, mean your words! “Say what you mean. And mean what you say.” Say what you really believe… not what you think the others or the boss want to hear just because you want to make a favourable false impression. (I always try to say what I mean… I am just not very good at doing it politely especially when I am too upset. I am learning to sheathe my blunt honesty with a scabbard of politeness… but it takes practice, of course)

***

There are a few reasons why I feel strongly about not trusting first impression. It was because I have been subjected to one numerous times.

The most common first impression about me was “sombong” or “unfriendly” or something along those lines. Which I think, is really unfair. Just because I was quiet and slow to warm up to strangers, doesn’t mean I am arrogant. It takes time for me to be comfortable to open up to people, and I generally become close to people as I interact with them through work-related necessity rather than socially. I am generally not good at friendly banter… but I can do it when I have to, in order to be polite and to reciprocate your own friendliness. If you initiate the contact, I will mirror your attitude accordingly. So, how is that ‘sombong’? Serius, aku tak faham!

The next common first impression about me is shyness, or “diam”. This one… memang semua yang kenal aku akan gelak terbahak-bahak! Because I am not shy… AT ALL! I am an introvert… but there are 4 types of introverts; social, thinking, anxious, restrained.

The anxious ones are the shy ones!

I am the thinking one! Give me an interesting topic that I have thought of to talk about… I will have no problem airing my opinion. In fact, I can sound quite earnest and enthusiastic about it until I will get accused of being too emotionally involved. Since people have seen me being quiet most of the time, they think that when I am speaking so ‘bersemangat’, so enthusiastically… that MUST mean in this particular matter, I am losing my objectivity due to some sort of emotional involvement. But that is not true. I rarely get emotionally involved. When I am interested in something, I have always talked earnestly. Hit upon something that pique my interest, oh boy, I can really talk your ears off, making me seem totally different from my usual reserved self! (And this is when people would think I am too affected by something…when they see how I deviate from my taciturn quietness. When actually, I am not affected in any way, shape or form…. I am just interested in getting my point across because this is important!) When there is nothing interesting to talk about, no points of interest in any particular case, just the same old mundane thing….I will be quiet again especially when I am in a new environment. That’s just how I am. (And then I get accused of being sombong. Damn! Haha)

***

There was one time when I was late on the first day of one of my numerous postings. In my own defense, I wasn’t late through any fault of mine. The formal black-and-white letter that I had received had stated clearly that upon arriving to the place of posting, I should report to the Unit Sumber Manusia first. I actually arrived early at 7.20 and had been waiting at the Unit Sumber Manusia for what felt like ages before I was finally informed that I was supposed to be meeting my boss at another place, instead. So, it would be quite easy for people who didn’t know me at that time to have a first impression that I was not a punctual person. My boss had even insinuated that he was a ‘punctual person’ and I should try to be on time in the future, to which I had just replied “Sorry, but the letter I received had told me that I was supposed to report to the Unit Sumber Manusia first and that was where I’d been for the past one hour,”

If he had formed any first impression of my being late, would it be a correct impression, you think? When in actuality, I am very OCPD about time. I am quite anal about it! Hahah. I treat everybody’s time as equally precious, regardless of whether I am dealing with my superiors or my juniors. Whenever I am on-call with my HOs, if I told them to meet me at any particular ward to review a case at this particular time, I would whatsapp them 10 minutes before the designated time if I knew beforehand that I might not be able to make it on time. I feel anxious when I know people are waiting for me. I apologize sincerely whenever I am late even to my subordinates…. but I was not gonna feel so sorry if I was late through no fault of mine. In fact in the particular case of my being late in my posting, I was the aggrieved party here! I was misled by the letter that was given to me, so whose fault was that? I was even more upset than my boss because I am OCPD about time! (My whole family is OCPD about time, thanks to my father’s military-like training).

I respect everybody’s time…. my superiors’ time are not any more precious than my juniors’ time or my patients’ time. And I expect my time to be given equal regard, as it should.

So, can you see how misleading first impression can be? So, what is the basis of us putting so much stock on first impression?

In fact, why bother having a first impression, anyway?

But if you are gonna have one, you should have the right attitude and the right philosophy about it. For example, my philosophy of first impression is “I have this idea about you straight away based on my first impression of you… but I will reserve my judgment about you until I get to know you better. But if we are never again to have any future encounters, then I would not even remember my first impression of you because it doesn’t matter anymore. But if we are to become close in the future, it would not be BECAUSE OF or DESPITE OF my first impression….it would be because I have thoroughly assessed your character and have decided I like you, whatever my first impression of you had been. In BOTH cases, either I meet you again and we become close or not meet you again for the rest of my life, my first impression does not carry much weight at all. See?”

And to the ladies, please be highly suspicious of any man who says that they fall in love with you at the first sight. Instead of being flattered, think about what it means to have someone falling in love with you because of how you look! That is casanova alert! Aren’t you scared?Think about the cheapness of such a sentiment… to be loved so easily with just one look?? In the future, God knows with which beauty queen he would find himself in love with at the first sight AGAIN! Haha.

Love-At-First-Sight-Is-Often-Cured-rfg210desi14
Yup! In fact, don’t just take a second look…but take multiple looks first, ok! LOL.

***

Let me end my post with the saying of Saidina Umar Al-Khattab again. (You guys know that I think of Saidina Umar as my superhero) 😀  Read it, understand it and internalize it. Think about the day of the ultimate judgment. Perhaps, it will humble you.

Until next time, my dear readers.

umar judgment

Section 509 Penal Code

I believe that human beings being different from one another is a blessing bestowed by the Almighty to all of us that are wandering the face of this glorious earth. Allah said so himself.

“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female,
And made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other
(Not that ye despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight
of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well-acquainted (with all things).”

(Quran – 49:13)

I have been told some time ago “Afiza, not everyone is like you. Some people care about other things and those things are just as important to them. Those things that are important to them influence their feelings and their actions too. Just like what you care about influence your feelings and your thinking and your actions. If things that we care about don’t influence our actions, well, we never really care about it in the first place, isn’t it? But people are different. Embrace the diversity.”

Well, I actually have embraced the diversity for a long time. But I manage the diversity by putting people into categories of whether they can fit in my table or they should sit in other tables. Whether they can be close friends or casual friends or just acquaintances.  

I actually think that it is a good thing that people are different. That’s how we learn from each other and that’s how we grow… when we come to understand that other people’s way of doing things are much better than ours in this particular context, (but not necessarily better in another context) we can adopt and adapt or fit and match our methods accordingly. It gave us certain nuance and flare that wisdom is so characterised by. 

So far, I have had fun finding out  that sometimes I could be wrong. (ok, it wasn’t fun, but it was educational… and education is kind of fun. So yeah, it can be fun in a convoluted roundabout way, if you know what I mean. haha)

But some things are objective. Some things are factual. Some things are not subject to your opinion or your preferences. Some  things are carved in stones because they are universal ethics that surpass any consideration of individual culture and local customs. And most importantly, some things have legal consequences. (ALTHOUGH, some things that are legal are not always the most fair or just, anyway. People in the parliament who MAKE the law are not infallible individuals. Sometimes, they overlook certain things. Sometimes, they have their own agendas and interest too. So bear in mind, that laws can have weaknesses and loopholes. And when the laws contradict universal principles of justice or ethics, they are BAD laws)

One particular issue that came up up in the (social) media had really pushed my brain into overdrive. Especially after I have read so many comments about it in our private doctors’ forum on Facebook. Nothing so polarize the medical fraternity more than the issue of the treatment of house officers, don’t you think? 

HO

I have talked about the issue of housemen in so many of my postings. But I never get tired of discussing it. It is like my pet issue, I think. In the same manner that I never get tired of talking about the rights of Muslim women, the rights of mentally-ill patients, the importance of practicing the Islamic religion fairly and correctly (rather than culturally and convolutedly), the quality of Malaysian education system or the importance of reading fiction and improving your language…haha. Those are my favourite topics. If you talk to me about those things… about books, psychiatry, women’s rights, education, bullying of house officers, the kind of weird rulings given by misguided so-called ustaz (giving people a bad impression that our religion doesn’t make sense when actually the religion should not be practiced in the manner they have jumud-ly described)…. I can talk about those issues all day long. (If ever I become a member of parliament, those will definitely be the issues I want to champion.)

Screenshot 2018-07-12 21.48.38
And many MOs/specialists keep on bashing about housemen as manja when they commented about this article. They thought it was shameful that HOs couldn’t fight for themselves and need to run to mummy and daddy to solve their issues or fight for them.  I wonder, what made them think that the HOs themselves had approved of the parents’ action of writing these things in the newspaper? Maybe the HOs do not even know that their parents were writing stuff in the newspaper on their behalf, right?

 

Everyone knows my stand on houseman issues. I have written about it ever since I myself was a house officer. And I have been consistent in my stand about them.

While I do think that HOs should stand up for themselves and fight their own battles without relying on their parents (because we are all adults here) while at the same time having excellent work ethics (do your work, no MIAs, continue to improve), I DO NOT and NEVER will I condone bullying, public humiliation, histrionic file-flying tantrums or any form of vulgar verbal abuse in the name of ‘tough training’. Never! 

Those are childish behaviours and reflect poor anger management and pathetic emotional regulation. Say what you want to say to your HOs firmly, give warning letters, terminate the HOs, go through the channel…. but mind your manners in front of your staff and your patients.

“Even in a declaration of war, one observes the rule of politeness.”

And….

“Manners maketh man”  😉

I admit that I have disagreed and crossed heated words with many people within my own department or inter-departmentally… but only when I feel they have crossed my sense of rightness and fair treatment (towards my patients, my colleagues or my department). I hate it when people make unfair or stupid decision and force me to abide by that decision simply because of their rank or position.  But even then, I have NEVER shouted or sprouted profanities. People generally know Afiza is upset, but Afiza has enough self-control and enough vocabulary to make her displeasure known without using vulgar profanities that reflects poor breeding. 

When I talk about politeness, I don’t mean you have to pretend you are not upset when you are. But there is no need to shout psychotically, and there is no call to broadcast to the whole ward of your displeasure in a histrionic attention-seeking high tone, with patients as witnesses to your childish public tantrums. Please…. pull yourself together! Say your piece assertively and move on. 

It is easy, isn’t it… to display your displeasure to a subordinate who you think is dumb! But how many people have dared to shout at their bosses who they also think as dumb? If you are upset at your bosses and you NEVER shout at them, how can you freely shout at your subordinates when you are upset with them? That’s preferential treatment based on rank, isn’t it? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? Or perhaps, more accurately, that is preferential treatment resulting from your own inner cowardice. Shame on you! At least, strive to treat people equally based on the merits that they deserve. If you treat your bosses nicely even when they are being dumb, then you should do the same to the subordinates as well. If you are the short-tempered type who cannot hold your temper with your subordinates, then I dare you to equally be short-tempered with your bosses. So that even as I cannot approve how you treat your subordinates, but at least, I am more likely to respect the CONSISTENCY of your conduct. Otherwise, I will go away thinking what a pretentious unprincipled cowards you are!  

I tend to treat my subordinates in a similar manner I treat my bosses… sometimes, even better. With my subordinates, I feel like I owe them a duty of care and a duty of protection. I am in friendlier terms with them than I could ever be with my bosses. I am in friendlier terms with my nurses and my HOs and my fellow MOs than with my bosses. My HOs are helping me with MY work… by rights, I am in-charge of my patients. Not them. They are only helping me while they are learning and training.

Similarly, that’s how specialists should think of MOs too. The specialists are the attending physicians. All the patients in the ward and the Klinik Pakar are the patients of the specialists… the MOs and the HOs are helping them. But the specialists are in-charge! That’s what attending physician means! The specialist MUST know in and out about the patient. 

Of course we all want competent helpers. MOs want competent HOs. And specialists want competent MOs. But at the end of the day, the patients in the ward belong to the specialists. FACTS! So, specialists should not pull a long face or make your subordinates feel like they have bothered you when they wanted to consult cases with you! They are YOUR cases! 

“An attending physician typically supervises fellows, residents, medical students and other practitioners. Attending physicians have final responsibility, legally and otherwise, for patient care, even when many of the minute-to-minute decisions are being made by house officers/residents.”

Get it? 

The moment you become a specialist, all the MOs/HOs under you are automatically your responsibility and patients seen by them are YOUR patients.

Frankly speaking, I would rather be the kind of specialist who is very approachable so that they won’t be afraid to let me know every single detail of my patient… easier for me to do some damage control should anything go wrong. If you are unapproachable, your subordinates might hide things from you or do not feel like some things are important enough to bother you with (because you always make them feel like they have bothered you whenever they approach you)  and by the time the shit hits the fan, it’s too late, ok! Your reputation goes down the drain. Scary isn’t it? 

So, how do you train your helpers? How do you help them to help you?! Teach them la! And teach them humanely. Because at the end of the day, they are helping you. Help to look after your patients for you. They help you… and this is how you treat them? By bullying them? And cursing at them? 

Teach them how to best serve you and adapt to your style of management. And you are not going to be able to do that with your childish (bordering on criminal) behaviour.  

***

Another doctor in our doctor’s forum had pointed out that insulting someone’s modesty is also a criminal act! He highlighted Section 509 of the Penal Code to educate doctors in the forum who were bashing “housemen these days”. In him, I find some hope in the future of our medical culture.

Shall we see what Section 509 of the Penal Code said, hmmm?  

Section 509: Word or gesture intended to insult the modesty of a person

Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any person, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen by such person, or intrudes upon the privacy of such person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years or with fine or with both.

It is not even necessary to talk about legal sections on assault (Section 351 of the Penal Code deals with assault).  Because insulting someone’s modesty is already a criminal act!

Do you want to be a criminal MO or a criminal specialist? Hahah. Just because you want to “tunjuk lagak” you might end up having your practicing license revoked when you end up becoming a criminal. So, be warned! 

This is the law! No one can argue with what the law has clearly stated! (You see, I am doing forensic psychiatry now… So I am at the ‘look at the law’ phase of training. Haha)

***

So my take home message to housemen and all doctors: Do not ever tolerate abuse by anyone in the medical fraternity. Of course people cannot always go along with each other because, yes… we have different personalities with different drive, different goals, different (conflict of) interests…. BUT!  be mindful of the Section 509 of the Penal Code.

After all said and done, some  things are objective and not subject to your own biased opinion. When it comes to the law, we don’t give a fig about what happened “during your time” or whether “You came from a tough generation who became oh-so-great via gangster-like training“ or whether “The HOs who lodged a report against you was weak and manja” . The law doesn’t care about those irrelevant non-issues! When you insult someone’s modesty with a word or a gesture… doesn’t matter whether he is manja or otherwise, competent or otherwise, responsible or otherwise….you have committed a crime under the Section 509 Penal Code. (Because you could have dealt with incompetent HOs by giving them warning letters and terminate them through the right channel. There was NO NEED to insult or threaten them. So, when you did that, you have become a criminal! Got it?) If the HO decided to sue your ass…. you are doomed!

Wouldn’t it be easier for you to simply remain polite, give the HO a warning letter and then proceed to terminate the HO…all done in a pleasant and civilised manner through the channel? Why expend all that energy scolding and harassing people only to get sued in the end, risking your career and your livelihood in the process? 

Think about it.