The Go First Principle

“That party sucked. No one talked to me.”

“Did you try to talk to anyone?”

“No, why should I be the one to go first?”

This conversation still pains to me hear. I was talking to someone close to me who feared making the first interaction in social situations. I related back to all the times that I’ve…

  • Waited for others to approach first
  • Not spoken up at a meeting – or once you I around to it – the meeting’s over
  • Expected others to start the conversation

There really is no moral judgment whether we go first, middle or last — life happens on a spectrum. Sometimes, it’s a really good idea to let others go first.

But what might the habit of constantly waiting cost us?

Waiting for others to act first robs us of our sense of aliveness.

Blame it on social conditioning. It’s not uncommon to spend the early years of one’s life answering to authority figures like our parents and teachers.

HomeSchoolReal world
• Don’t talk back to your parents
• Ask for permission first
• Be nice, let others go first
• Wait your turn to be called on
• Obedient students are rewarded
• Loud/rowdy students are punished
??? 🤔🤔🤔 ???
Oversimplified – many families and schools are different. Just go along with the example, will ya ;)

It doesn’t take a far stretch of the mind to see how social conditioning can translate to problems in the “real world” as we come roaring into adult life.

On the contrary, imagine the aliveness and freedom that comes from going first.

Complimenting a random stranger.

Asking for what we want.

And dropping any meaning behind someone else not going first.

(Single straight ladies, you should ask men out more often).

“I’ll go first. If I’m at checking out at the store I’ll say hello first, if I’m coming across someone making eye-contact I’ll smile first. Not all times, but most times — it comes in your favor.”

Gabrielle Reece, professional volleyball player, actress, model

The Go-First Principle

The Go-First Principle is as simple as its name.

In social situations, go first. If there’s an uncomfortable conversations, be the first to start it. If you’re in a fight, be the first to say sorry.

When in doubt, go first.

Going first is not about selfishly dominating a conversation and taking up all the oxygen in the room.

Going first is about checking the ego at the door, giving ourselves permission to do things, and shedding the social conditioning of waiting for others.

If you think this is easier said than done, then I agree.

So why is it so hard to go first?

Going first is dancing with fear

I believe the fear of going first is a function of how we perceive our relative standing in a group.

If I’m going to be talking to a group of Ivy-League MBAs, then I’m way afraid of starting the conversation…compared to talking to a group of teenagers about careers in design.

Our social conditioning around authority reinforces the desire to look good and avoid looking bad. And these desires are really about the deeper fear of losing social status.

Our social conditioningFear of looking badWhich means…
I should ask permission, right?I don’t want to seem rudeLOSING SOCIAL STATUS
Is there someone more important than me who should go first?I don’t want others to think I’m more important than they areLOSING SOCIAL STATUS
I really want go dive into this bomb ass buffet but should I wait?I don’t want to seem like a selfish fat buttLOSING SOCIAL STATUS

The evolutionary drive to be accepted by others is real… that I’m afraid of cutting the meeting short even if I really need to pee.

Consider that the need to be perceived a certain way – and not be socially rejected – runs our lives.

I don’t want to come off as desperate by making the first move
I don’t want to look dumb
I feel awkward doing this

On the other hand, this is why we’ll find ourselves laughing to comedians who say things without shame.

How to make this practice easier

Here are a few ideas and practices that make the journey of going first a bit easier

Others want you to go first.

More often than not, everyone else is thinking the same thing. Who’s gonna go first? Gosh, if someone would just start.

Trust that people are not so petty, and wouldn’t judge you for going first. In fact, they might be relieved.

Allow one value to be more important than the fear of social conformity.

If being authentic is more important to me than looking good, then I have less fear of going first.
Or maybe your value is fuller self expression, or humor, or whatever. They can all be bigger than the desire to not look bad.

Some scripts might help

I find that the most socially savvy people do this one trick – they go first…yet start the conversation in a way that feels cohesive to the group. It’s asking for permission, boldly:

  • I’d like to say something first, if that’s okay
  • Mind if I start?
  • Shall we?
  • Can I ask you a question?
  • Would you mind if I go first?

The bigness of your life is directly in proportion to how willing you are to ask for things.

So go ahead.

Go first.


There are good reasons to not go first. You might not want to be the early adopter of a drug. Or maybe it’s a better idea to suggest someone else (like a guest) to help themselves first.

This is less about a directive of “I should always go first,” and more about the spirit of freedom.

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