We all know how important first impressions are and we try to put our best foot forward. It doesn’t matter if it’s a first date, meeting your future in laws, interviewing for a new job, or going for that coveted promotion. We are almost painfully aware of how we look, what we sound like, and the words we use. In that same vein, we usually know when we’ve blown it. More times than not, we don’t walk away feeling like we’ve nailed it. The problem really lies in whether or not you were being the best you, or pretending to be someone you’re not. Whenever we try to fake it, we tend to mess it up. Our chances are better if we just go in thinking we have to be ourselves, just the best version of the real thing.
There are times, no matter how hard you try, you meet someone and they simply don’t like you. That will lead you to question everything about yourself and why they don’t. It’s very likely you could do everything differently and get the same outcome. When someone just doesn’t like us right after meeting us, they either had a preconceived idea about how this was going to go, they have some serious issues and they can’t see past those to see the real you, or you did something seriously wrong. It could be also that it had nothing to do with you personally. Maybe you’re a brunette and they only like blondes. Have they seen your resume and you attended a rival college? Did they see your social media profile and don’t like your politics? Maybe short, round, green eyed women are offensive to them. Well, there goes my chances! If they are going to judge you on appearances alone, then shame on them. It takes time to truly get to know someone. And sometimes, time for them to show their true colors.
When it comes to important meetings and such, you often don’t get a second chance to show them anything different. Just getting acquainted with people isn’t as high pressure to be right on the first time, but we all want to be liked. You might be going into this situation feeling confident and relaxed, but you don’t know what kind of a day they’ve had that might have already sent things into a downhill spiral. That means it wasn’t your fault, just a matter of circumstances. You would have to weigh the possibilities and pros and cons if you want another shot at making a better impression before pushing forward. That’s easier with friendships than careers.
Let’s think about this. You gave that last job interview everything you had. You dressed appropriately, got your hair trimmed, downplayed the flash, learned about the company, had your resume professionally done, and even took up yoga to give a more relaxed version of yourself. You were careful to respond to questions, were aware of your body language, and smiled and shook hands with confidence. About half way through the interview, you felt things sliding south. Not at a rapid pace, but just enough to make you second guess yourself, so that by the time you walked out, you were convinced you didn’t stand a chance. I had this happen during an interview for a director of religious education position. More than anything, I wanted this position. I had been a youth minister for a few years and worked with children for over 25 years, so this seemed a natural progression. I had been heavily involved in church and held other positions as well. There was a part of me that felt I should have been well received just on paper alone. I had no idea that it was stacked against me long before I even set foot in that room. They should never have interviewed me in the first place. First of all, they wanted someone with a master’s degree. It didn’t say that in the paper. One of the people I had used as a reference, someone I trusted would come through for me, gave them the impression that I would be too busy caring for my elderly mother to do the job properly. The panel I met with did not understand my credentials from another state. My one attempt at humor failed miserably, too. When asked what the one thing I felt the Catholic Church needed the most at the time, and I responded with a better PR person, it went over like a lead balloon. I chuckled with my answer and then proceeded to give a more serious answer, but I knew right then, I had blown the whole deal. Youth ministers learn to use humor to get their point across and it’s in my nature to be funny anyway. Wrong time, wrong place, and wrong crowd.
It did make me realize a few things. I didn’t want to work for someone who couldn’t appreciate something so much a part of my makeup. I also didn’t want to start with strikes against me, like my education. They would rather I had a master’s degree in anything instead of the education and experience I had in religious education. That got my dander up. I knew I was never going to be given the respect or acknowledgement I deserved. I was sad, but at the same time, felt I’d dodged a bullet. I might have worked really hard on the impression I was going to make, but the impression I got of them, left a bad taste in my mouth. Their loss. It certainly was better than me beating myself up over why they didn’t want me.
While first impressions are what we too often go by, it doesn’t mean it’s an accurate assessment. I pride myself on being a good judge when I meet someone. I am not prejudging no matter what I’ve heard or been told. I go into it open and friendly. I have only erred twice in meeting people and making a bad call. The first one, was a woman I met who turned out to be much nicer than I originally thought, and the day I met her was not a good day for her. I was glad I set aside those initial feelings for another meeting. The second one, I gave the young man much more credit than he deserved and only time bore that out to be true. Still, I always said I would rather go into a relationship believing good in someone and chancing a deepening relationship only to get hurt, than to stop caring enough to have a relationship in the first place. I don’t want to let my opinion of someone come from a place of negative things about someone else who reminds me of them. Truly unfair. Everyone deserves to be seen on their own merit.
The next time you get ready for a new beginning with someone, remember that it pays to be the best YOU and let them decide for themselves what you have to offer. Trying to be something you aren’t, catches up, and gets tiresome to keep pulling off. If they don’t like you, then it’s their problem, not yours. Move along to someone or somewhere else where you’ll be appreciated.