First impressions are really tricky. On one hand we hear that that first impression sticks. The first thoughts we have about a person when we see them really tell us so much. On the other hand we hear that people often put on a mask to others. A mask that will only come down when they feel comfortable or safe with another person. People are always developing themselves, learning about themselves and growing as an individual. So how can we know all about them from one first sighting?
I was confronted by this situation recently. I met someone who on first impression looked like she was cold and distant. Her clothes and facial expression sent me a message of arrogance, of being better than me. I looked to acknowledge her, to say good morning, but her eyes avoided mine. That just served to confirm my impression. My defences kicked in and I found myself thinking that this wouldn't be someone I could connect with. She clearly isn't wanting to talk with me. She clearly thinks she's better than me.
After a short time though I heard her tell a story about herself. A story about some of her life experiences. Experiences that had impacted on her. Experiences that stayed with her and made her who she is today. Her facial expression softened as she spoke, her voice faltered with emotion. In fact her whole appearance started to change. She made eye contact. She appeared vulnerable. She appeared human in a way she hadn't at the time I first laid eyes upon her.
I couldn't help but feel a tinge of guilt, internally reprimanding myself for judging too quickly. For not giving this woman a chance. I should have known better that underneath the surface there's humanity. I should have known that sometimes we put up guards to protect ourselves. I really should have given her a chance to show who she was. I should have wondered about her instead of judging her. I should have worried less about how I thought she felt about me. In fact none of it had been about me.
I got chatting with this woman. I overcame my judgements.I refused to let my initial thoughts get in the way. We connected and found we have some similar thoughts, some similar experiences, worries and fears. We are not as dissimilar as I first thought. We connected as people, we let each other into our inner lives, just for a few moments. I learned my lesson again - never judge a book by its cover.