Damage control begins the moment you shake somebody’s hand.

Look, I get that there’s enough talk as it is that the world’s a big scary place, and in some cases, it certainly is.

I’m not writing this article to try to scare anybody into avoiding meeting new people. It’s important for everyone to be open-minded and willing to connect with new faces.

However, a lot of damage can occur when you fail to treat your first impressions like double-edged swords. Based on how you interpret somebody’s initial behavior, you could be doing yourself a disservice in the long run.

What’s the double-edged sword?

You need to strike a healthy balance between trust and skepticism when you meet someone for the first time.

This is someone you most likely know nothing about, so there’s no reason for you to distrust them and resent them.

Similarly, because you know nothing about them, there’s also no reason for you to immediately fall in love with them or think that they’re fantastic just because maybe they’re giving you a warm and friendly smile.

First impressions are great because they open the door to a potentially fantastic relationship. They also, however, open the door to potential ruin and hurt.

You need to accept that these are both possible outcomes. Take a step back and do your best to objectively analyze who it is you’re really meeting.

Give people a chance

I’m not suggesting you start going all Machiavellian on the people you meet, nor should you raise walls and borders so high that no one can ever get in to know you.

If I had to pick one or the other only, I’d lean on the side of being open-minded and trusting toward new people you meet. Give people a chance.

Not every relationship is going to blossom into something beautiful, but you’ll never get to see what could be if you never let anybody into your world.

Whether you like it or not, you share this planet with billions of other people, so you’re bound to run into others whether you want to or not.

As somebody who’s grown up with a childhood full of hurt and betrayal, even I still find ways to give people a chance to secure themselves a spot in my life.

I’m sure you can too, and I strongly encourage you to do the same. Being open to new people in your life means opening doors that lead to acquaintances, friends, best friends, romantic partners, and even your future spouse.

The potential pros infinitely outweigh the potential cons.

Protect yourself

At the same time, you can’t be ignorant of the fact that there are people out there who will do you harm if you place your trust in them. There are people out there who will enter your world, put up a façade, lie, and then hurt you.

They may don a smile and present you with a glowing first impression. They’ll open the door for you, pick up something you dropped, help you move a heavy object, buy you a coffee, and more.

You might think to yourself: “Wow, this person’s great! They do so much for me and they’re so nice. I love them already.”

So you start spending more time with them. You start eating out at places, going to museums, and working out together. Maybe they ask you on a date, and because you think they’re so wonderful, you accept.

Two weeks after you meet them, you hear through your social circle that they embarrassed and disrespected a close friend of yours. Your close friend went home in tears.

What! you ponder in disbelief. They told me they absolutely love my close friend.

Turns out that this “wonderful person” not only hurt your close friend, but they also lied to your face. For, absolute love does not look like making a fool out of someone, in case you missed it.

You cancel the date and burn the bridge, reminding yourself that just because someone gives you a good first impression does not mean that they’re a good person.

The balance

This brings us back to the idea of maintaining a balance between being trustworthy and open-minded, and skeptical and patient.

This is why I mentioned damage control in the first sentence of this article. You don’t always know when a person you meet will turn out to be a snake down the road.

Take a healthy amount of time to assess someone and see what their true colors are. Nobody can hide their true nature forever, and it might be worth it to watch it spill out before making any serious commitments or before doing something grand for them.

In some cases, it is true that if someone shows you who they are for the first time, believe them. For instance, if someone is just a dick to you from the get-go, then I wouldn’t recommend giving them a chance. It’s still possible for something good to come from this, but it’s unlikely.

Obviously, not everybody is out to get you, but it would behoove you to be wise to the idea that someone might be.

Treat first impressions like a double-edged sword.