We’ve all heard about the importance of first impressions and I think that most of us strive to make good ones with the people we meet. What happens a bit more subconsciously is the first impression that we convey about others to people who have not yet encountered that someone in person. While we may share our opinions as part of casual conversation, these initial impressions often have a lasting imprint that colors future relationships or trust levels, even though the comment was not intended to have such weight.

For example, if a friend tells me that she doesn’t like the new boyfriend of another person, a seed of doubt is planted in my mind before I ever meet him. If a colleague remarks that something didn’t sit right with her in an interview, I have a moment’s hesitation about the person when he is ultimately hired. If someone shares a negative first impression about their boss, I need to erase that impression and overwrite it with the positives from my first encounter rather than starting with a blank slate. And if someone is giddy about their new partner, I go into the meeting with trust that may not be warranted.

What goes on the canvas first often colors the rest of the painting. Use extra caution with your comments about people or situations and allow others to paint their own first impressions instead of shading them with secondhand ones.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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