September 18, 2012

First Impressions Are the Most Lasting



…first impressions are the most lasting. But be assured that I will put the best face on every appearance. No exertion of mine shall be wanting… — Gen. Henry Jackson wrote to Gen. Henry Knox in 17911

First impressions do count.

My family’s latest “house guest” keeps telling me I’m disorganized.

Who? Me?

Just because I promised my mother I’d send her something immediately and now it’s four days later and I’m just sending it (at least it’s not two weeks later.). Just because I cannot keep track who to pick up or take where and when? Just because I cannot keep up with the clutter, dishes, laundry and mail?2

Yes, first impressions do count.

This was clear when our family lived in Stone Mountain, an Atlanta, Georgia suburb. We lived there during the three years my husband Monte attended Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.

While thereI discovered that people in big cities make prejudgments. They do so, I believe, because they are bombarded with so many persons each day that they need a quick way to evaluate these contacts, which they seemed to do by asking three questions:

  • Where do you live?
  • What does your husband do?
  • What do you do?

After identifying the ins and outs of the prejudgment game I began testing my hypotheses that I could manipulate people’s response to me by the way I answered the questions. This was easy to do because there were multiple ways I could answer each question honestly.

Where do you live? Note: We lived in the only apartment complex on our suburban street.

  • We live on Central Drive. Eyes open, alert, inviting next question. (assumes we own our own home)
  • We live in  the Vineyard Apartments. Eyes look down, seeking for a way to escape

What does your husband do?

  • He’s a      retired college professor. Eyes open, alert, inviting next question
  • He’s a      student at Emory University. Eyes look down, looking for a way to escape.

What do you do?

  • I have a craft business (never mind that I usually cleared less than $100 a month). Eyes open, alert, inviting next question.
  • I’m a stay-at-home mother. Eyes look down,      looking for a way to escape.


Can you see where the game becomes fun? I began to mix and match my responses while watching the eyes of the questioner.

If I gave all the Eyes open, alert, inviting next question answers I was well accepted by the person or group. If I gave all the Eyes look down, looking for a way to escape answers I’d find myself standing alone in the crowd. And if I gave a mix of answers—my degree of acceptability as a person was equal to the number of Eyes open, alert, inviting next question answers.


Small towns operate differently. People are prejudiced in a different manner (that’s for another post). Relationships are usually very family-tied, and it’s difficult to break in. The responses to the above three questions are not quite as important as they are in a big city because fewer new people cross their paths.


Either way, Gen. Jackson makes a valid point: First impressions are the most lasting…

I was concerned about first impressions when my newly discovered sister P. offered to visit our family home, which, at the time, looked almost like the homes featured on the television program (more…)

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