One Look at Her Told Me to Stay Away-The Impact of First Impressions

 In Focusing on the positive

The Impact of First Impressions

As part of my certification in Positive Psychology, the entire class from all over the world met for an in-person, week long immersion training in Massachusetts. It was amazing in many ways. The students were incredibly friendly, enthusiastic, and inspiring! So when I saw Sherry (not her real name), she really stood out. Sherry was always scowling.  She had a deep, furrowed brow without a hint of a smile.  

One look from her and I had a strong gut reaction.  “Stay away from her!  Boy she really needs this positivity stuff!  She must be very grumpy.”

As luck would have it, I was put in a small group activity with Sherry. Yikes! You can probably guess that I was NOT looking forward to it. But as our group started interacting, I quickly changed my mind about Sherry. She wasn’t grumpy at all!  I was shocked to find out she was very nice and fun to talk to!  I even saw her smile!  

Isn’t it funny how we judge people instantly based on things like their expression?  I wonder if Sherry even knew the signals she was giving off by her perpetual scowl. My interactions with Sherry have reminded me of two lessons;  

  1. Be more open-minded about my first impressions of others  
  2. Be aware of the expression others see on MY face  

Now, when I’m at a meeting or just mixing with a group of people, I consciously try to keep a slight smile on my lips.  What’s your “neutral” expression?  Does it make you approachable or make people want to stay away?  Consider how our first impression of someone can impact how we interact with them.


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Tina Hallis, Ph.D. is Chief Positivity Officer of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures. She is certified in Positive Psychology, an authorized partner for Everything DiSC®, and a Professional Member of the National Speaker’s Association.




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