What’s Your Association?

How do we form first impressions? Part of it is based on association.  It’s not always about the person or the situation but about past associations. Were you stressed or relaxed at the time of the meeting? Did someone you dislike forewarn you about the person you are just meeting? Did someone you like and respect give you information about this person prior to the meeting?  Does this new person that you are meeting remind you of someone?  All of these things may have an impact on how you experience you first meeting with someone new. Sometimes even a label, such as President or Police Officer, will affect how we initially interact with someone or make a decision.  Let’s start with people being “inter-relational”. Every time you meet someone, or interact with someone there is an effect on you and the other person. Every encounter is recorded in our brain and an emotional association is attached to the memory.

To understand how this works, try the following:

Think about someone in your past who you can remember very well. How did you know them? Where did you meet them? Was it a positive experience or a negative experience? What made it pleasant or unpleasant? What other things can you remember that may have affected how you experienced them and the situation?  Our brain learns by Association, even in our relationships with people!
Now, think about someone else that you have met that reminds you of the person from your past. If your initial meeting with the person from your past was negative, you may start out with some hesitation or negative feelings towards the more recent person. Likewise, if your first encounter was positive you may feel a more positive anticipation or association.
Knowing how we associate doesn’t mean we will stop associating new people and situations with past situations, but being aware of how this works can help us be more responsible about how we might be relating to people around us based on other relational associations. If our associations are positive, they may help us in new relationships but if they are negative it may keep us from having new relationships that could be more positive.

Evaluate who you are relating to in your life based on the past.  Is it helpful or unhelpful?  Give them a second chance to create a new association!