There are so many instances when a person’s first impression of you matters. When applying for a job, going on a first date, starting a new school, selling a product or service – those are among the many times it matters. And most of the time our first thought turns to how we dress, or a nice firm handshake. Looking the other person in the eye is important, too. That’s a biggie. But there is one thing that people notice before anything else.
It sounds like impression
When we were looking to hire a part-time assistant in our karate school, I was told about a young lady who was interested in the job. She was already a student, which is always a bonus. She was always early for her classes, tried hard on the mat and took pride in her uniform being cleaned and pressed. She was a role model as a student, but there was one big problem. She never smiled. What sounds like impression? It’s your expression. And hers was glum. Imagine you are a trepidatious, prospective karate student coming into a martial arts school for the first time. Would you want to be met with someone who looked like they were sucking on Sour Patch Kids? As talented as she was, her expression made us pass her up for the job.
The right expression at the right time
Of course it’s not always a good idea to smile. I’m thinking of facing an opponent during sparring (kumite) lessons. In this instance, each opponent has the opportunity to intimidate the other with their expression. It is the first line of defense.
In 1994 I was a brown belt preparing for my black belt test. During sparring classes it was important to realize that, although I was among friends, I had to look at them in the eyes with an expression that said “I am going to sweep the floor with you.” That’s the impression I had to make. During a sparring class I would never expect an opponent to back down, even if I growled. However, I would expect a potential attacker to think twice.
Self-defense starts above the neck
Your brain starts the whole process, and for most of us, it is located above the neck. Your expression is next. If you believe someone wants to harm you, you need to let them know it’s not going to happen. Speak volumes without opening your mouth. ( Just like my parents used to do, and I knew I was in trouble without a word being said.) And it wouldn’t hurt to take a self-defense class, have a plan and know the facts. Just saying.