By Charles Ademolu
Baylor University, BA Psychology
I was taught at an early age that first impressions go an extremely long way. Matter of fact, they apparently went so far that if I made a bad first impression or was not on my best behavior in front of someone or a group of people, I could be instantly written off as a troublemaker, as someone others should “stay away from,” or as the person to keep an eye on.
Eh. I think that lesson is useless.
I guess I am addressing this idea of first impressions because it either says or encourages that if your first impression is anything short of spectacular, that’s a wrap. Or to be blunter, one strike and you’re out. However, to be a bit broader in scope, I am getting at our lack of patience and understanding with one another as human beings. It is vital and necessary as inhabitants of this large green and blue globe we call Earth, that we learn and practice being consistently patient with one another in order to thrive, not simply exist.
Please, do not fall into the comfortable pitfall of judging someone off their first impression, whether pleasant or terrible. If they entrust you the beautiful privilege to do so in their lives, get to know people and their stories because you would be very surprised to discover why they do the things they do, believe the things they believe, and act the way they act.
For instance, the young girl that is nice all the time may feel that the only way to be accepted and acknowledged by people is by being pleasing people at any cost, even if it is at the extent of her own happiness and well-being. The cashier at the grocery store may be red-hot ringing up groceries because he, as a single father, is doing as much as he can to financially support himself and his little child. The quiet person at work or school that is not talkative or is normally aloof towards others is so because he has seen how those closest to him outcast and throw stones, literally and metaphorically speaking, at other people included in or involved with the LGBTQ community. And the homeless man living on the street looking into passersby’ eyes is not particularly looking for money (though he could use it for food, water, and shelter) but rather the sheer possibility of being noticed as a human again.
I understand how helpful generalizing can be at times for its convenient purposes, but know and remember that every single person is different and is multilayered with culture, background, history, and personality. In other words, people must be dealt with in a unique fashion. Be patient with people in their frustrations, in their fits, in their quiet times, in their times of confusion. Give people room to make mistakes and chances to be resilient. And while you are at it, be patient with yourself as you are patient with others.
Try not to jump to conclusions when interacting with people because there is, more often than not, more to them than meets the impressionable eye.