Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

26 October 2009

A Good First Impression - The Relational

Remember the days before computers? Maybe you don't! (If you don't, please don't tell me because that will just make me feel old!) In those days if you were at university you'd work hard at writing out assignments and essays VERY neatly because a good clean assignment created a good first impression on the marker. No, they weren't supposed to mark papers based on presentation - but a marker would be happier about looking at an essay if it didn't look like chicken scrawl. This is the silent power of a good first impression.

We all know about the importance of creating a good first impression. It is widely known that interviewers have often made up their minds about whether or not we will get the job within the first five minutes of the interview. If we get the job then there's that moment we step foot into our new workplace and meet our new colleagues for the first time. And how about the moment when we meet those two particular people...the folk we hope one day will be our parents-in-law? These are the moments in life when we choose our clothes, words and demeanour very carefully.

Those big moments of creating a good first impression fortunately don't come along too often. Just as well - I don't think I could cope with the stress! But there are good first impression moments to be seized upon in every day life too. And making use of them can make a big difference in our relationships.

Here are some daily "first impression" moments that come to mind...

* Greeting my family first thing in the morning.
* Greeting someone who knocks on my door.
* Walking into church on Sunday.
* Entering a room to join a group of friends.
* Answering the telephone. (My dear sister thinks the manner in which I answer the phone is way too officious!)
* Smiling and saying a warm hello to the person who is about to serve you in a shop.
* Greeting my husband when he comes home from work.

There is a bit of theme here - greetings. We set the tone for time spent relating with people in the way we greet them. A greeting marks a fresh start in a new round of interactions. It is a small but significant opportunity to create a new first impression.

At one time I worked with a teacher whose husband frequently collected her from work. I noticed that she always greeted him with a warm, "I'm really pleased to see you" smile. Always. It didn't matter what sort of day it had been. I observed that she would actually prepare herself for this daily after-work greeting. She would see him approach, pause, take a deep breath (especially if it had been a bad day) and prepare her demeanour to ensure that the first contact with her beloved was warm, genuine and loving.

I am not suggesting that we walk about the place with false, plastic smiles on our faces all the time. If things are bad then things are bad. But except for the really patient souls amongst us, don't we weary of the one who greets us with a downcast expression every time or who answers the phone with a sigh every time? We are worn down before we even start.

Back to that teacher. I am sure it wouldn't have been too long into the journey home and she would have been telling her husband about the good, the bad and the ugly of her day. But I am also sure that he would have been ready to listen to her, no matter what she had to say, because she had created a good first impression - a warmth and respect - that invited relationship.

The quality and mutuality of our communications can be greatly enhanced when we start on the right foot...if we create a good first impression that says something about valuing the relationship. All it takes is pausing to think, taking a deep breath if necessary, smiling and saying hello with some warmth. Just as an interview can go so much better for putting in the preparation to create a good first impression.

By the way, in my final year of university I invested in a Canon portable electric typewriter. It cost me a fortune in the one-use-only disposable ribbon cartridges and as I couldn't touch type at the time, a 3000 word essay took FOREVER to type up. But I'd say there was a good 10% increase in my marks. Nothing like a good first impression, even for an essay!


Helen said...

Oh Meredith! Such a wise and true post from you, something I can learn from and be reminded of, thank you. x Still got that portable typewriter I wonder?

Meredith said...

Thanks Helen.
No, the portable typewriter is long gone.
And dear Helen - if you enjoyed this post, you should see what is coming next!

Wendy said...

Thanks for this post Meredith, very helpful, and a reminder that our interactions with all people make a difference. I'll keep an eye on my 'first impressions' this week! Wendy

Meredith said...

Thanks Wendy. And thanks for dropping by - a great honour.