The New 5 Second Rule – Redefining the First Impression: Quita Christison (Transcript)

Quita Christison at TEDxPortsmouth

Here is the full transcript of youth empowerment activist Quita Christison’s talk titled “The New 5 Second Rule: Redefining the First Impression” at TEDxPortsmouth conference.

Listen to the MP3 Audio: The New 5 Second Rule – Redefining the First Impression by Quita Christison at TEDxPortsmouth

Best quote from this talk:

“Five seconds is all it takes to have a first impression. First impressions are the point of no return. You’ve started to judge the other person.”


So there’s a small chance in this short amount of time that you’ve had a little moment to notice something about me. That was about five seconds.

Five seconds is all it takes to have a first impression. First impressions are the point of no return. You’ve started to judge the other person.

A nicer way to say this is: you’ve started to form an opinion or conclusion about that person. Your brain saw me and immediately tried to put me into categories from most obvious to least: small female incredible fashion-sense, and so on and so forth.

Yes, I’m a little person. I have Pyknodysostosis which results in a rare form of dwarfism that has me fairly proportional. So for unfocused eyes, at four feet five inches, I can appear to be a nine-year-old girl and sometimes people treat me as such.

They let their unconscious categorization of me lead the way in how they’re going to treat me. I don’t want you to believe I haven’t done something similar to others. I’m not special. I’m just as human. We’ve all messed up.

We’ve all put our foot in our mouths. I’m going to go as far as to say if you haven’t, have you really lived?

But what happens when we act on these snap judgments? It’s uncomfortable for everyone. It’s not a good feeling and it sticks with you. If you’re the one that has messed up, hopefully you learn.

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If you’re on the receiving end, it sticks with you as well. And you learn to put your guard up or live life a little less authentically.

For me there are times I feel like I can’t wear that bright red lipstick or the fun clothes that my peers can get away with. And I usually have some quip if they’re ready, or I am overly polite when I’m offered a sticker or… literally… or if an adult asks the friends that I’m with, if I’m old enough to try the samples at Costco.

This literally happens the chocolate protein smoothie was not worth it. I have a catalogue of these types of stories but I’m not here to chastise something that we all do. It’s a human thing for the brain to categorize. It’s how our ancestors decided if something was safe or if we were in danger.

This instinct is completely valid in those dark alley moments. But in everyday encounters we aren’t in the prey-predator situation and yet our brain still has this innate need to categorize.

And when someone doesn’t immediately fit into a category, we tend to stare. It’s our brain’s little trick of giving an extra time to see if it can find a category for that person to belong in. But in these moments, we aren’t seeing the world as it is. We see it as we are. We use ourselves as the frame of reference.

How is this person different or similar for me? Taller, shorter, fatter, thinner, more or less tattooed? And we typically aren’t aware of our initial unconscious, hopefully, hidden reaction which is why we need a tool to create a bit of space to become aware.

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