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Points Glacier: An antidote to the first impression fallacy

Most of the organizations are catching up to an HR related practice where employees get a bucket full of points every month. They are then nudged to utilize these points to recognize, encourage or appreciate others in the group (dept/org/company). Gamification ensures future participation of even the most indifferent employee.

I have some insight into the best practices of the HR world, but there is something about this points-based recognition program that stuck with me. It is not the apparent similarities with philosophical/psychological concepts like “happiness jar,” “count your blessings,” “gratitude living” etc. But instead how it can be extended to neutralize the negative aspects of first impression, aka first impression fallacy.


First impression and the fallacy

Most of us are generally sold the idea that “the first impression is long-lasting.” There is ample evidence supporting this psychological fascination, as this particular research by Skylar M. Brannon and Bertram Gawronski, that explains why first impressions are so difficult to change.

The more we read and learn about it, the more we get stuck to this notion with all our might. We are then slowly led into the world of snap judgments, expectations and, sometimes, heartaches.

First Impression in a nutshell

  • The moment we meet a new person, at the office, in life or otherwise, we tend to form an opinion instantly (trustworthy? imposter? idiot? knows how to code? better than me? 😄 … yada yada yada .. stop it brain!).
  • We end up carrying this impression for the rest of our interactions with the person.

Now the fallacy part

While it is clear that first impressions can potentially have a substantial impact, we also are told that judging a book by its cover is not a good idea. So, how do we know for sure that our first opinions of a person are valid and worthy of being long-lasting? That’s the fallacy part.

Impact on relationships

  • Positive impressions are generally win-win for all involved, but the negative opinions put relationships on life support especially for shorter interactions (like one time meet, or those sparsely spread across many days, weeks or months).
  • The reasons for negative impressions can be many, but mostly are stereotypical. We forget that everyone has a personal story and every action or behavior could be the result of one’s life experience so far.
  • We also tend to forget that there are umpteen cultures and customs in the world and a wrong here might be a right there.
  • Impressions at work, especially at multinational companies, are also supplemented by person’s accent, nationality, dress sense and the perceived ability to blend.

Negative connotations of this fallacy leave no one.

If we are at the receiving end of someone’s first impression, there are ways to improve the situation.

But how to be self-aware of our judgments? How do we ensure that we are not forming a long-lasting negative image of a person based on the first impression?


Points Glacier to the rescue

Taking a cue from points-based recognition program, I wondered what if we use the power of unlimited points glacier, that lies within us, as an antidote to the first impression fallacy.

What is Points Glacier?
I am always fascinated by the notion of unlimited kindness, forgiveness, and willpower. Such limitless qualities of a person are like an ocean.
For the internal points-based program, I used the equally majestic, Glacier, as the metaphor. Glacial ice is the largest reservoir of fresh water on Earth. And points glacier is the source of unlimited points within us.

Setting the groundwork

  • Let’s say we meet an estimated 80000 people in our lifetime.
  • As the CEO of our life, let us encourage our “selfs” to award points to every new person we meet.
  • Being a generous CEO, let us pick 1000 points as our base number. That totals to 80,000,000. Sound like a significant number to give away? Well, it is negligible compared to what we have got in the glacier.
  • We can use these points to give to all the people we meet. As per the psychology of giving, “When we experience ourselves as givers, we receive a deep and enduring affirmation of our value to others.”

The fun part

  1. The next time we meet someone new, let us immediately award 1000 points. Let us do this before looking at their shoes or eye contact or handshake grip or skin color or nationality or religion, i.e., before picking on the many stereotypes.
  2. However, there is no escape from our biases, especially those associated with the first impression. But now, if our brain tells us that the person is <one of the super long negatives list>, we deduct 10 points. If our mind is impressed by the person’s <equally great positives list>, no deduction.
  3. Now, even if we meet a person with many stereotypical negatives, the result of the first impression will still leave us with someone who is worth 990, 950 or 930 points. And that is by no means a small number!
  4. If we interact with the person frequently, stereotypes will eventually fade away, and we will have a great acquaintance, friend or partner for life.
  5. If the interaction was short-lived, we are not carrying any negative baggage either. We will remember the person as someone whose score was not a perfect 1000. But then who is perfect in this world!

Cheat sheet for successful implementation

  • We do not have to maintain a balance sheet; leave the task to our subconscious supercomputer.
  • We do not have to try too hard. Just need to be conscious of the points system. Things will eventually fall in place.

Conclusion

Many of you, by now, would have noticed how we are deducting points from others because of our preconceptions. Doesn’t it sound misguided? Shouldn’t we add points instead and never subtract?

If this resonates well, you are already on the self-awareness path.


I have started using this approach and am feeling right about it so far. My interactions have improved as I became self-aware of my thoughts.

You may want to try it. Remember, you are the CEO of your life and own a points glacier.