Of Right Words & Positive First Impressions

I was reminded of the power of one’s words and the impact of a good first impression over the weekend. I, along with several of the family, were sitting in a packed room, awaiting the start of our daughter’s dance recital. As the lights dimmed, a figure walked to the front of the stage. The lights on the stage came up on this individual, and we the crowd were meet with an awkward, “Um, good evening…”

As the lone figure on the stage continued to greet us, his guests, he also shared a long list of other opportunities we could enjoy here at the event center. Within thirty seconds of the greeting, I was more than a little confused. I didn’t know why this person was greeting us. To my knowledge he wasn’t connected to the dance studio. He wasn’t talking about or informing us of anything having to do with dance or the recital; the reason we were there to begin with. He was however, giving us a bit of sales pitch; unfortunately though he was so all over the place, it made it extra difficult to follow the bouncing ball. Keep in mind I still don’t have a good context for why I’m even hearing the pitch from this guy.

The awkward moment was only made more so by the layering of more and more, seemingly extraneous information for the next couple of minutes. I thought we came here for a recital, I kept thinking to myself, I don’t care about a concert coming to this place in November. Eventually the man sat down; I’m not sure who was more relieved, him or the audience.

Words are important. How we use words are also important. We all know by now how there is only one chance to make a good first impression, and if our words aren’t well prepared, our first impression quickly becomes a whoulda-shoulda-coulda opportunity.

I tend to think in terms of Church-life. How does this life lesson translate to this context? What opportunities have been missed or damaged because our words were not well thought out or utilized? I’m sure we can very quickly produce a long list of horror stories of where we’ve tried and failed. Let’s be honest, the Church hasn’t always done well to make a good first impression; having chosen the wrong set of words for the situation. I don’t know, something about Turn or Burn, just doesn’t resonate well with me…

Thankfully however, the Church is allowed a healthy dose of grace. God grants us a second chance at a first impression. The trick in this is to be transparent enough to admit you were an idiot the first time around. For example, I have a neighbor who moved in behind us about three years ago. For close to a year I said nothing to this new neighbor of ours. At best he’d get a “friendly” wave. Understand, I wanted to make a contact with him, but in my mind I’d figured too much time had passed, and that to approach him now with a neighborly greeting would be awkward. Truth is, this was my excuse. I should have introduced myself within the first week or so of him moving into the neighborhood.

Then one day it happened. Contact was made. While a little uncomfortable for me, the ice had been broken (thanks to my neighbor–I was still talking myself out of making contact). I knew this was my second chance. So I swallowed my excuses, along with my pride and introduced myself and offered my apology for not doing it sooner. His reply… No worries man, any time you wanna grab a beer, come on over.

What… really… wow. Not the response I’d expected. Since then, I’ve had various interactions with this neighbor, all the while slowly getting to know him and he getting to know me. Where are things leading, I haven’t a clue. But I know it feels right and it feels good, so I keep looking for opportunities to engage. I don’t worry so much about my words now, as we’re past the introduction stage, and we’re moving into something more. Again, how God plans to use our conversations and interactions, I’ll have to wait and see. In the mean time, I’m keeping an eye pointed toward the direction of my neighbor, looking for the next opportunity to chat.

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