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.
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).
“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.
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.
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.