Sometimes I come to suspect that the person has misread who I am and what my interests are. At other times it becomes clear that I have misunderstood an individual’s capabilities and interests. These things happen – and I try to spend a bit of time correcting those impressions. As Jimmy Buffett wrote, “It’s human nature to miscalculate.” If two people are engaged based on an honest effort by both, possibilities may be identified that were unthought-of at the start. I have almost always found this effort at re-centering will worth the effort.
There are also times when it becomes clear that the fit both of us expected is not going to be likely. This is a fair outcome and I tend to consider meetings ending in this manner just as successful as ones which serve as the launch pad for extended relationships. If someone has made an honest effort to help craft a productive meeting, I generally honor that effort with a willingness to introduce them to people or opportunities that may be a better fit.
Well then, I’ll take the withered petals and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.
Within the telling of this nightmare, Machado is right on target. The lesson is lost opportunity and wasted time and attention. The un-finesse-able truth is that mistaking someone for the Tooth Fairy or Santa Clause is evidence of a profound, latent immaturity. People, and the world that they make up, are simply not organized for the sole purpose of satisfying your needs. Considerate and supportive treatment is required from both sides if a relationship is to grow from those tentative initial contacts to fully formed friendships that overflow with mutual benefits. And what is lost as a result of a negative first impression is most often lost forever.
Perhaps in Tartuffe, the wise king thinks much more of a man’s virtues than he does of a man’s mistakes; Orgon’s past loyalty to the king is rewarded, and his mistakes are now forgiven. But in real life the scales don’t balance in such an artificial way. Being asleep to opportunity, indifferent to balance or abusive towards others has its costs. And those costs should be a cause of real personal grief in sentient beings – not just for lost opportunities but also for the inhumanness that underlies them. As Bill Holms wrote in his poem titled Advice: For it is important that awake people be awake – Or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep; The signals we give – yes or no, maybe – should be clear: The darkness around us is deep!
The wind left. And I said to myself: “What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”
Doc’s Rules for First Meetings: OK – so I’ve rolled a bunch of behavior into one ‘worst case’ scenario. Remember I did say that this was The Best Way to Make The Worst First Impression. Maybe one or two of these occur at any given time. In the best of times, none ever show their faces. But the grief over lost opportunity – and for having wasted time that was once new and available to spend on something of value – has led me to formulate a set of rules. For what they are worth, here are Doc’s guidelines for assessing first meetings on the run:
- If the individual doesn’t come to the meeting with a clear idea of what is of value to them and how you might be able to supply it, that person is not worth taking the time to get to know.
- If the individual comes to the meeting without having figured out in advance the things that are of value to you and how they might provide them, the meeting is a waste of time – move on.
- For meetings that show some promise, follow up promptly with a test of responsiveness. Sort out the ones who are good at taking meetings and little else from those who are willing to seriously engage. Ignore the former and cultivate the latter.
- If the meeting has made considerable progress towards the construction of a two lane highway, schedule a follow-on meeting and make sure that you keep up your end of the deal – this one could be a keeper!
© Earl R. Smith II, PhD