I'm Horrible At Forming First Impressions...And Thank Goodness I Am

I'm really shitty at judging people right away.

Seriously, my first impressions of someone is almost always wrong.

Especially if that first impression is negative.

When I think back, I can only think of one time when my negative first impression of someone was actually right.

And when I really think about it, I'm not even too certain if that negative first impression of that individual is 100% right.


And I bet you're pretty shitty at it too.

I don't care if you think you're really good at reading people right off the bat.

I don't care if you've been right in the past.

I can guarantee that you're not very good at forming first impressions.


Here's why you and I are so wrong so often: We can't control those first impressions.

At least, not at first.

Our first impressions are impulsive. Those thoughts and feelings are based off of a cocktail of factors, most of which we have literally no control over.

Some of our reactions are biological. They're engrained reactions that have been baked into our DNA after hundreds of thousands of years of running from predators that would eat us. And those reactions are fickle and flimsy and happen at the stupidest things.

Our reactions are also based in part on past experiences.

Over the course of our lives, you and I have collected memories and experiences. Some have been good, some have been not so good. Sometimes we conscientiously collect these memories, and other times we subconsciously collect those memories. 

Actually, most of what we collect is subconscious.

And all of those feelings come out automatically when we try to form a first impression.

But here's the thing: A reaction is not the same thing as a response.

A reaction is uncontrolled, while a response is based on facts, research, and thought.

These thoughts were inspired by Daniel Kahneman's incredible book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. Reading it is like getting a private tour of the human mind. If you're curious about psychology like I am, you can pick up a copy of Thinking, Fast and Slow right here.

We're all a little overconfident in our intuition.

When it comes to judging people, we're biased in our biases.

Here's what I mean.

Those people who say that they're 'really good at reading people right off the bat' are biases towards their biases.

Subjectively, they're confident in their intuition because they've successfully guessed right before.

And because they've guessed right before, then they assume that they'll guess right forever.

But that's the same as someone believing that they're better at winning the lottery because they've won the lottery before. Therefore, they'll win the lottery again in the future. Or so they think.

The hard truth is that the lottery is nothing more than a game of odds.

Is their skill involved? Sure, a little. Is there logic involved? Yes. The more tickets you buy, the higher your odds become to win.


Since I suck at reacting, here's how I respond.

Feel free to steal this approach.

I totally disregard my first impression. I chalk it up to evolution, fight or flight, and faulty memories I've somehow stored in my reactionary brain.

I lead the conversation by asking questions. I lead with generously listening and genuine curiosity.

I learn as much as I can about them, and I do it in a fun and meaningful way.

And then we get together again.

Because now I have time to digest everything I've learned, which leads to a better understanding of who they are as a person.

And that makes my future responses much more accurate.

Grab Thinking, Fast and Slow on Amazon. It'll make you smarter.