Thursday, January 24, 2008

First Impressions - Should We Trust Them?

The closer I get to the half-century mark (I'm turning 48yo this year), the more I'm learning to discount my first impressions. They're more often inaccurate than true.

Take Ridge, for example.

After meeting Ridge and falling in love with his fox-red coat, his training focus, and his abundant field instincts, we purchased him as our first stud investment. We bought him, as you recall, when he was three years old (four years ago, now).

My first impressions of Ridge, beyond his trainability and color, didn't emerge until after we brought him home. For the first six months, he seemed aloof. Eager to work? Yes. Smart and trainable? Absolutely. Focused? You bet.

But he didn't seem affectionate. He wasn't the lap dog our other Labs had been.

Of course, that could've had something to do with the trauma of his leaving the only home he'd known since he was eight weeks old. Or it may have been influenced by our taking him from the cool, wooded mountains (if you can call them that) of west-central Pennsylvania to the hot, muggy hills of southeastern PA. It could even have been the transition from living in a kennel with other dogs to living in our home with more humans than canines.

Who knows?

But my first impressions of Ridge during those early months were that he was a great field dog and would make a great sire, but that he'd never love us the way our other Labs had.

I was wrong.

Well...partly. He is a great working dog and sire--I got that part right anyway.

I'm pleased to tell you, however, that Ridge has gone from Mr. Aloof to Mr. Snuggle Bug.

He's Mr. Affectionate these days. Take a look:

He's completely at ease with our affection. And he's equally at ease demonstrating his affection for us.

It's just taken time.

I'm glad my first impression of Ridge (his aloofness) proved to be inaccurate. And I'm glad I didn't take my first impression too seriously.

He needed us to give him a chance.

Maybe it's the same with people. Maybe I shouldn't be too quick to judge or make assessments (good or bad). Maybe I just need to allow people (and myself) more time before I determine what I think about them.

It can go both ways: Some positive first impressions I've had turned out to be way off (a lesson I've learned a few times--the hard way--about not jumping in too quickly lest I get burned); other negative impressions turned out to be equally inaccurate, much to my chagrin (finding I deeply appreciate certain people now that I never thought I would).

So I'm learning to treat my first impressions with suspicion. Can they be right? Oh, sure, just as they were about Ridge's focus and field abilities.

But they're more often wrong.

So I'll take people (and life) a step at time and reserve judgment for later. I'll give people grace to evolve and change.

And maybe I'll be surprised by unexpected blessings -- like Ridge's affection --along the way.

'Til next time,

1 comment:

JuliaR said...

Joan, that's a great life lesson you have learned. I have always trusted my intuition with everything, including impressions of people. (I use the dictionary definition of intuition and don't mean a sixth sense.) However, I have also learned over the years (and I turn 50 in a month!) that I should reserve judgment for a while on many things, including people. I don't always have enough information to know for sure about a person. And even if I know their whole life story, it doesn't mean I know how honest they are or if they truly care about things. Sometimes you just have to wait and watch.

Interestingly, I can make a first impression that is not at all indicative of the person I really am. I found this out years after I had been working in one job. My co-worker with whom I had become close friends, told me that her first impression of me was of a cold, controlling person. I met her when I had just been offered the job and I was tense and nervous and yet trying to appear calm. Ha!

And then there are levels of friendship. I can be superficial friends for years with some people - we can laugh and have a good time. But to be truly close requires me to know that they are honest in everything they do - or at least honest with themselves and me. All that honesty can be brutal but it's what's important to me so that's what I look for. And sometimes, you just don't run into circumstances that give you evidence of the important things you are looking for right away and that's why you have to wait.

Life is so interesting, isn't it?