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Ramblings on Impressions July 22, 2012

Posted by Edwin Ritter in Behavior.
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If asked to state my favorite artistic movement, I would say it is Impressionism. I enjoy how the impressionists capture light in their paintings. Impressionists defined a new way of seeing the world. Those artists depicted short bursts of daily life in an era just before photography become popular for the masses.

There are many impressionist paintings I enjoy. One of my favorites is this scene from Renoir. His Luncheon of the Boating Party is arguably his best known work.

In a sharp segue on life imitating art, I want to mention a few thoughts about social impressions. There is an old cliché that states “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. It is a slightly humorous way to stress the importance of making a accurate reflection of  who you are right away.

As with most cliches, there is a bit of truth embedded in this. To me, impressions deal with how you present yourself to a new contact. Introductions are important in setting a correct impression. How introductions are conducted in a business or social setting quickly set the tone and level of interaction in a relationship. By this, I’m referring to how formal or informal the introduction is.  Your tone of voice, demeanor and posture all contribute to the impression you make. What I have found is that over time, impressions contribute to your reputation such that it is fairly accurate reflection of who you are as a person. When I meet people at work or at network events, I state my name, shake hands firmly and make eye contact. I try to ask questions that demonstrate that I am listening and my interest or experience on a given topic.

Recently, I have found that impressions can also be a very powerful force in behavior. Combined with reputation and assumptions, impressions shape how you are perceived. I also think that behavior speaks louder than words and what you do is more important than what you say. While you can’t change impressions, your behavior can add or detract from your reputation.

How do you handle first impressions? Do you always make the impression you want? If you had the chance to make a second impression, would you take it?

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