Posted by: nedpelger | October 22, 2008

The Importance of a First Favor Impression

Lots of people tell you to try to make a great first impression on others. I don’t disagree with the standard advice of good eye contact and a firm handshake. What I’ve discovered over the years, though, is to distrust the first impression. The creepiest people often make great first impressions. Con men and swindlers learn to make that great first impression, relying on the fact that once you assume they are good folks, you’ll stop paying attention to what they actually do.

The first favor impression matters much more to me than the first impression. As a young engineer and project manager, I remember working for High Construction, part of a group of companies. A guy from High Steel or High Concrete would call and ask a simple favor. Perhaps they needed a beam sized or a quick budget for a project they were considering. These tasks weren’t in my job description, but I knew they mattered. These guys didn’t know me well and this was the first time they had asked for a favor.

I tried to make these first favor requests among my highest priorities. I knew that I’d develop the reputation of being competent and reliable if I quickly helped them with their problems. Other opportunities came to me, people recommended me for projects and jobs, because I’d established myself as a can-do guy. You must manage your reputation if you want to advance in this business.

Recently a young man offered to help me on a simple home project, but then never followed up. I remembered my concept of the importance of the first favor impression. This fellow now belongs, in my mind, to that large group of people that talk but don’t effectively act. Which group do you want to be part of?


  1. You know, Ned…

    I just wrote a post on my blog (“RenaissanceRonin”) about this myself. It seems that we’ve become more self-absorbed, and less inclined to actually aid or even follow thru, when energy needs to get expended.

    I suspect it’s “society driven,” as we become more and more estranged to our neighbors and associates.

    It’s like we no longer embed “responsibility or accountability” in our social code, anymore. It actually surprises us when someone does what they say, or goes beyond the lines drawn.

    Kudos to you, for setting a good example, one that will influence those around you. And don’t forget to give that young man some input, to remind him that he has to try to live up to his promises. Everyone that crosses his path in the future, will benefit from it!

    In my post, I did what I could to thank the guys and gals responsible for solving my “dilemma,” so that they KNOW they were appreciated. It’ll hopefully encourage them to do it again, for someone else…


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