Thursday, June 19, 2008

First Impressions

One of my strongest friendships grew out of an argument.

I was advising an organization on discrimination issues and the attorney was to prepare a department's defense.We both had a completely different take on an individual case. We parried for a while and the meeting ended with each of us convinced the other was wrong. Friendship seemed unlikely at that point.

Fortunately, our responsibilities forced us to work together and we eventually became allies and then friends. I suspect it was because we both left the door open to friendship.

You don't always get that chance. I knew one person who would dramatically and unfairly sever ties with people. Once the declaration was made, the offending party was deemed beyond the pale. Given the unreasonableness of the judgment, I doubt if the relationship was missed.

There are also those strange occasions when one just flat-out dislikes another and the reason is difficult to discern. ["I do not like thee, Dr. Fell. The reason why I cannot tell. But this I know and know quite well. I do not like thee, Dr. Fell"]

I once strongly recommended a man for a job and then learned, from several reliable sources, that the fellow hated me. I have no idea why and still have fairly warm feelings toward the man. Perhaps at some point I was unfair or sarcastic but I honestly can't think of the occasion; in fact, I still recommended him for the job since I saw no reason why his animosity toward me should have any bearing on the selection.

Those odd instances, of course, show the deceptive nature of first impressions. One of Joni Mitchell's songs has a line about people who come up the hills from all around you, making up your memories and thinking that they've found you. It can be stunning to learn of the assumptions that others hold about your background and opinions. That should encourage us to exercise some restraint with our own assumptions.

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