Making impressions is important, because reputation is the modern currency, the old currency of getting paid having been discontinued when employers found out they were expected to do the paying. So I want to talk about how to tell if you’re making a bad impression. And I have to explain that I’m talking about the impression you make on a hypothetical person who hasn’t got any fixed properties, including existence. Thing is I’m sticking to the male pronouns for this person not because I don’t think women can be hypothetical but because when I read this over, imagining me having these interactions with someone female, it comes across as pretty skeevy. I’m trying to make a less skeevy impression.
- On meeting him, did you leap into his arms? Exuberance is nice, but to be done successfully you have to make sure you’re leaping into a load-bearing set of arms. To be on the safe side wait until you meet this person’s fork lift and then jump onto its … uh … the things out front that actually do the lifting, because those are considerably stronger. (See, right away this is trouble, since imagining me leaping into anyone’s arms is trouble but with a guy it might be hijinks and with a woman it comes across as battery.)
- Do you wait for him to tell a joke before you laugh? Or do you just trust that he wouldn’t have paused if he weren’t telling a joke? I know it’s hard when you meet someone to both listen and not explode in panic at having to talk with someone, but, you don’t want to focus so much on not breaking into a panic that you have no idea what’s been said. He might have just asked, say, “Did you know they had filmed part of William McKinley’s inauguration?” and laughing just then will make him think you know how to spell Leon Czolgosz.
- Did you throw up on him? In fact, did you have any body-produced fluids or semi-fluids emerge onto him except in a clearly defined context, such as you were giving blood in a process what required he smear it on his face or something like that? If you have this will probably count against you, even if it was to a greater purpose such as your showing off your prowess in washing other people off. (You see why I don’t want this hypothetical person to be female. You can throw up on guys and have it be just in the spirit of a merry little jest, until they start punching anyway.)
- Did he catch you stealing his iPhone? There are very few times in a relationship when you can steal the other person’s consumer electronics without it leaving at least some impression of you being a mean-spirited sort. This goes double when you’re first meeting, because whatever kind of person you might be in the long haul just isn’t obvious. If you’ve got to swipe anything, don’t get caught, or if you just can’t do without, then get caught stealing his BlackBerry.
- On meeting him, did you stare wide-eyed, murmur inaudibly, and then flee to behind a nearby wall? If you did, was it through a door or other partition or did you just break through the drywall? If it wasn’t drywall, then was it plaster you broke through? Any of these are likely to leave a bad impression, unless you were trying to establish yourself as an expert in tool-free demolition work. There’s only a small market for that, and it’s fiercely competitive what with tool-free demolishers being able to run into each other and knock each other down, so he would probably understand your trying to make an impression. Whether you want to do spec work before even the possibility of a contract is discussed is something you have to talk about with everyone on your tool-free demolition freelancers web forum, because then you can get into tedious arguments about how whatever it was you did is just wrong. The murmuring is probably a mistake too. (See, this one feels worse imagining the other person being hypothetically female.)
You know, actually, this whole thing is coming across as a mistake. I think I’m giving people the impression I’m always worried I’ll do ludicrously absurd things as if I had absolutely no control over what my body was doing at any moment. I probably shouldn’t even let you see this. I’m sorry. Please don’t think worse of me.