Tuesday, December 12, 2006

First Impressions

You can learn a lot about a person by what’s hanging on her corkboard. It shows you what inspires her, what makes her laugh, and what’s important to her. Of course, looking at my own corkboard above my desk, I think I might be just a little twisted.

I have a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon that’s a particular favorite and always has a place of honor. (I considered scanning in the cartoon, but with copyright issues, I decided against it.) It shows a spaceship surrounded by Earthlings and several aliens standing at the top of the steps descending from the craft. Another alien lies at the foot of the steps, upside down, obviously having just fallen ungracefully down them. The caption reads, “Wonderful! Just wonderful! …So much for instilling them with a sense of awe.”

This one is a favorite of mine for two reasons.

1—I’m a bit of a klutz myself, as regular readers of this blog know already. In addition to slicing myself with sharp objects on regular occasions, I also tend to trip over my own two feet quite a bit. (Yes, most people think the whole ballet thing means I’m graceful poetry-in-motion. Nope. Put on some music and strap me in to some pointe shoes and I’m good. Put me in tennis shoes on a flat surface and I’ll fall on my ass.)

2—My mother instilled in me the importance of a good first impression and the lack of a second chance to make one. Yet, like the poor alien at the foot of the spacecraft’s stairs, I, too, have made first impressions upside-down wondering if I’ve broken a bone.

My M-I-L’s first impression of me wasn’t all that great, and it took me years to quit being “That Girl.” There’s an editor I made a whopper of a first impression on; I can only hope she doesn’t remember my name the next time I try to query her. We’ve all made less-than-spectacular first impressions that we spent ages trying to live down (or at least move beyond).

And, no, I will not be sharing the details from either of those situations here. Sorry, but no. Don’t even ask. Let embarrassing moments die the deaths they deserve. (And those who do know better keep the details to themselves as well.)

I’m thinking about this because I’m judging a contest right now. Granted, the presentation of the manuscript is not a score-able item, but I can’t help but be negatively influenced by the entry that is littered with typos and a disregard for some pretty basic ease-of-reading and professional presentation techniques. My first impression isn’t great, therefore I don’t want to keep reading.

And the Playfriends wonder why I nitpick them to death on things they give me to read—it’s because I care. I only do it out of love, you know. It sucks to be the alien at the foot of the stairs. I speak from experience.

So how important are first impressions to you? Have you ever made a really bad one? (You don’t have to share all the embarrassing details—unless you want to, of course.) How did you try to make up for that not-so-stellar first impression? (Or are you still living it down?)



Joan said...

I honestly believe what you see around a person work desk tells a lot about a person. Mine is like your everything everywhere but I know when you ask for some thing where it is at. LOL

Kathy said...

We've all been taught not to judge a book by its cover but sadly, the opposite is the norm. I guess that's human nature in motion.

Embarrassing moments come and go but one moment is all it takes for someone to form an opinion about you. I'm very curious about those two incidents, PC, but I won't push to learn the details and I couldn't begin to name any of mine. There are just too many to count. One stands out though. As recently as this past July, a famous author was brought to my attention. As I turned abruptly to see her, my quick actions caused someone in front of me to fall right in front of a lot of important people.

You're a klutz, PC? I think I invented the word. LOL.


Maureen said...

I tell my kids all the time that proofreading your papers multiple times before you hand them in is so important.

Pat said...

I dont have a cork board - what does that say about me? LOL.

Cant think of anyone whos first impression they made on me was wrong. Sometimes unfortunately upon meeting people they just rub me the wrong way and I just cant get over it.

As for me making bad first impressions, I really cant say; I dont think so - we are all wonderful people here in the "playground" - lol. But anything's possible.

Linda Winstead Jones said...

I'm such a klutz. Some days I'm sure I have two left feet. I'm likely to stumble over them without warning (or reason) at any moment.

First impressions are important, and I'm sure I've had my share of bad ones. Unfortunately, life doesn't come with a rewind button.

LJ -- Who's not going to say a word about messy desks . . .

Dannyfiredragon said...

I am careful with first expressions, because quiet people are easily mistaken as arrogant. I know that from my own experience, so I am careful when to make my opinion not too fast

Smarty Pants said...

My corkboard has: a "no whining" sign, a postcard that says "Can't sleep, clowns will eat me...", a couple pictures of me and my sister, a picture she drew, some fairy pictures, and two of those despair.com versions of Successories posters - one with a sleepy leopard that says "Indifference - it takes 43 muscles to frown and 17 to smile but it doesn't take any to just sit there with a dumb look on your face" and a team in a row boat that says "Get to Work - You aren't being paid to believe in the power of your dreams." Oh, and a Care Bear calendar. What does that say about me?

I make HORRIBLE first impressions. Always have. I've counter acted this by sitting quietly and smiling when I first meet people. My dry, sarcastic sense of humor usually falls flat on people when they don't know me. I'm an acquired taste. I also have the tendency to frown when I'm thinking so mix those together and I'll never get hit on in a bar.


Lori Borrill said...

I'm with dannyfiredragon. I try not to make first impressions because too often I discover they're wrong.

And it seems in every aspect of my life, there is someone standing on the sidelines trying to dictate my opinion of someone I've just met.

I try to form my own opinions, thus I often find myself riding this tightrope between not wanting to offend the person saying, "Watch out for so and so" and trying to get to know "so and so" to see for myself.

It's all human nature, I guess. Of course, much of my life is spent at little league fields and large corporate offices which seems to breed that kind of thing.

Playground Monitor said...

I like to think I make a good first impression. Lord knows, I've had half a century to perfect it. LOL! I'm usually willing to give someone a second chance as long as their first impression wasn't highlighted by excessive foul language, getting out of a car without undies, a personal attack on me or my family -- really negative stuff of that sort.

I'd never thought about first impressions in terms of your manuscript. Sure I always do my best to send in a properly formatted document that's been checked and double-checked and triple-checked for errors.

I judge for a contest each year where format is a score-able item and I remember getting one entry last year that was not only formatted completely wrong, but it was full of typos. Like you, I just wanted to toss it aside and pick up the next entry in the pile. Why don't folks read the contest entry rules? And at least run it through SpellCheck? It won't catch everything but this entry had mistakes that would have been caught.


Rhonda said...

Hmmm. First impressions. Though I know from experience they can sometimes be wrong, I generally go with my first gut-reaction to a person. Most of the time it's a little niggle--other times it's a strong go-go-go! sensation.

As for the first impressions I have made--Lord only knows. I'm just me. :-) I know that there have been times when people have mistaken my shyness for snobbery, but... What can I say? If I know you well, then I'm going to talk. A LOT. (As my friends will tell you.) If I don't, I'm going to sit back and observe.

RE:corkboards. Mine has "Arguing with stubborn people is like mud wrestling with a pig. Eventually you realize the pig likes it." A fruit tea recipe I wheedled out of waitress at a local restaurant. A couple of my covers, my editor's numbers--all three of them :-)--and my dog groomer's new number as well.

Not sure what that says about me, but....

Instigator said...

I don't have a cork board... Although it would be a good place to keep all the sticky notes that litter my space.

As for first impressions - I try not to make snap judgements about people but sometimes it's difficult. I have no idea what people think about me. Hopefully, that I'm not a bad person - or an idiot :-)


word verification: asfabale
is that the opposite of affable?

Meljprincess said...

I need more than a first impression to get to know someone. They might make an ass of themselves at first but be quite nice later. Or they might be nice and then show their nasty true colors.

Playground Monitor said...

Meant to say before that I don't have a cork board either. Guess when I decorate my office next year I should put one up somewhere.


Angel said...

My corkboard has a calendar, some notes on scrapbook pages I want to finish, and layered articles, goal lists and such covered by my business liscenses and a sexy pic of Oded Fehr.

Combined with the messy desk, I think it says I'm, well, messy. :)

Lois said...

You know, I couldn't immediately answer this, probably because it's been forever since I actually met anyone. For real, I mean. It's been a while since I've been in school, and getting back keeps getting pushed and all. But I guess just from looking around in places like going to the mall, sure, I might get an impression of people when I see them, but you have to figure it's human nature. I'm sure they are forming some sort of opinion with me as well. But if I mess it up when truly meeting someone or they do, I would like to think there could be another chance because not all first meetings go well. .. LOL :)