Sunday, October 16, 2005

Curious about Impressions: How Important Are They? Part I

It all started this past week in one of the excellent marketing forums in which I take part. One of our members asked for feedback on his updated website. A comment about first impressions and the importance of the “packaging” of a product - or even a person - led to a thought provoking thread.

As the discussion evolved, it was noted that even when we have a first far from perfect first impression, we may find that later impressions change our reaction and elicit better impressions and feelings. The example was given that even if the "packaging" (first impression) is ugly, if we enjoy the food that is contained, we will buy the product.

We have all heard the statement that we only have a few seconds to make a good first impression. The more I considered that, however, the more interested I became in “impressions” and decided to pursue the ideas surrounding them. You may have noticed that I am calling this blog, “Part I.” Yes, there will be at least a “Part II” because during my research, I found so many different approaches to the word “impressions” it deserves a second blog.

Let’s begin with the standard first “impression” idea. I am as guilty as everyone in that I often form a first impression of people I meet or am introduced to. Because I am the type of person who wants to like everyone, I work at dispelling that initial reaction. Very often - and much to my chagrin - my first impression proves to be true.

I also was brought up to believe that we should always consider the impression we are making on others - whether it’s a “first” or later impression. My mother stressed that one should never leave the house wearing hair rollers or crummy clothes. “You never know whom you might see at the store.”

So, how concerned should we be about the impression we are making on others?
  • Pierre Bonnard wrote, “What I am after is the first impression - I want to show all one sees on first entering the room - what my eye takes in at first glance.”
  • Dale Carnegie, the master of winning friends and influencing people, suggested, “Naturalness is the easiest thing in the world to acquire, if you will forget yourself - forget about the impression you are trying to make.”
  • Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) wrote, “To find out your real opinion of someone, judge the impression you have when you first see a letter from them.”
  • Jim Thome shared the following thought, “My dad told me when I went into high school, 'It's not what you do when you walk in the door that matters. It's what you do when you walk out.' That's when you've made a lasting impression.”

The impressions we make and are made upon us can go much more deeply. They can be triggered by our so-called “packaging” but also by feelings:

  • Marian Anderson considered what legacy she was leaving, “I suppose I might insist on making issues of things. But that is not my nature, and I always bear in mind that my mission is to leave behind me the kind of impression that will make it easier for those who follow.”
  • Andy Garcia is straightforward, “Everything I do in my life is very instinctual and in the moment. If I'm attracted to something, that's it. If I have reservations, those don't change till they're resolved. My first impression is how I go.”
  • Henrik Ibsen summed it all up, “A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.” How true!
  • And, Horace put a great deal of faith in what we observe, “What we learn only through the ears makes less impression upon our minds than what is presented to the trustworthy eye.”
  • Talking about the “eye,” Sa'Di wrote, “Whatever makes an impression on the heart seems lovely in the eye.”

Lots of ideas about impressions to consider! I found many more that revolve around art, mathematics, politics, fashion and history. That’s why there will be a “Part II.” But, I must share these last two quotations - they are so interesting and a bit controversial, too:

  • Sigmund Freud stated, “The impression forces itself upon one that men measure by false standards, that everyone seeks power, success, riches for himself, and admires others who attain them, while undervaluing the truly precious thing in life.”
  • And, Michael Frayn believes, “You can create a good impression on yourself by being right, he realizes, but for creating a good impression on others there's nothing to beat being totally and catastrophically wrong.”

Are these true? What do you think? I love receiving your comments!