You never know what you’re gonna get. (Forrest Gump)
One of the things I have been thinking about are how people tend to place others into boxes. Humans have a way of rationalizing everything down into something they understand. That rationalization can be a positive force or it can be a negative force.
On a basic level we need it for categorizing things like females/males, human/animal, skilled/unskilled, fat/thin. This is all very good and necessary. In our everyday life however, we don’t keep it on that level. We add some preference – chocolate (good), tomatoes (bad). A tomato will always have some different flavours, but basically we will not change our perception of the tomato much. A tomato is a tomato.
When dealing with other people we tend to do the exact same thing, but in a more subtle and extensive way. We get a first impression where we evaluate people based upon looks, clothing, body language etc. Already on the first impression we get the feeling of “do we like this person or not”. That impression gets refined each time we have an encounter with that person or based upon others impression/experience/gossip. We can have an instant emotional response and/or we create an image in our mind which validates our feelings and thoughts.
The problem usually arise when negative thought patterns arise. They are there for a reason – there is something within us which responds to our image of the other person. Of course, the image we create might be right, but we can’t automatically assume it’s correct.
Person1: I would like to work within the marketing division.
Person2’s interpretation no1: Person1 demands to work only within the marketing division.
Person2’s interpretation no2: Person1 doesn’t like to work in the sales department that he currently work in.
So how did the situation go from “would like to” to “demand”? It’s connected to the inner dialogue of person2. When talking to another person we always interpret other peoples messages based upon the body language of the other, our own reality and our inner dialogue. By inner dialogue I mean the voice in our heads (our thoughts) that wonders what and why the other person said what he did. That voice is also the one that tries to rationalize our feelings into something logical. Example: If I don’t like another person, then I will find several reasons why I don’t like him/her. Consciously or unconsciously I will search for reasons that I don’t like the other person, because it will validate my own impressions.
By doing so we are effectively closing down the lines of communications and we are not even aware that we have a judgemental attitude. It’s our own limitations that gets in the way of dealing with other people.
In a discussion we might disagree strongly with another person, but we have to be careful so that it doesn’t validate our own bad impressions.
So how to deal with our own negative impressions of other people?
Usually there’s a situation that is the reason for our negative impression. Then we need to validate if our impression is correct by asking:
Correct way: Do you only want to work within the marketing division or can you work within other divisions as well?
Wrong way: I think you are difficult to deal with because you only want to work within the marketing division.
Correct way: Why did you respond that way during that situation?
Wrong way: It was really bad of you to deal with the situation that way.
Notice that in the correct way of dealing with it, there is no emotional response, only a question where person1 has the possibility to explain his viewpoint.
In the wrong way to deal with the problem we add our own negative impressions and person1 must instead use his energy to weave out all misconceptions of person2. Something that is timeconsuming, difficult and might never succeed.
The problem is that when dealing with peoples misconceptions, a person is guilty until it’s proven otherwise (which can be never in such cases). This can be a huge burden for a person. Person2 will never know how much of a burden he/she places upon other people simply because they are different people.
I have personally used an approach for dealing with persons I don’t like based upon first impression. I smile and tries to meet them without any preconceptions. What I have experienced on several occasions is that they seek me out and likes me better than I apparently like them.
1. Try to leave preconceptions when dealing with other people
2. When something seems negative, ask if your understanding of the situation is correct, but leave your negative imprints out of the question.
By doing so, you might improve the life of others (and your own).