First impressions 

Knowledge and concepts are important, but they can also prevent you from looking closely. This is made clear by the following example. A man is sitting in a chair by the window and absorbed in watching a bird in the garden. He sees the animal fly here-then-there, peck at something, look up, preen its feathers, sit on a twig. Watching this bird fills the man with pleasure, he is full of admiration, almost lyrical. He is not plagued by knowledge, he does not know what he is seeing. Then his wife enters the room and asks him what he is looking at it. He points to the bird, and she shrugs impatiently, saying “It's only a sparrow.” The enchantment is broken and the observation is lost.

The first time you see something, you can be fascinated by it. You are capable of observing every single aspect of it. In an uninhibited first impression you can gain an idea of the characterisation, which you can rarely describe in words. You wouldn't even be able to draw or model the whole. If you want to know more after this first sighting, you have to study the finer details. This will give you more information, but it can also threaten to block your perception of the whole. There is also the danger of attaching equal importance to every detail, so that the specific is more likely to escape your notice.

First, you saw the whole but you did not really know what you had observed. Later, you saw the details, but threatened to lose sight of the whole. It is important to remember that first impression well by being alert, holding on to your observations and recording them in some way.

A first impression is made up of a variety of observations, made not only by the senses but also by your feelings and emotions. These contribute to the richness of that first impression.

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Only a sparrow?

Exercises

Take an object, or ask someone to do something that you have never seen before. It might be something simple, such as a stranger's gait or voice. Note your first impressions.

© Heirs Tom van Gelder - Stichting AntroVista