Seeing people through the lens of our own story
Updated: Dec 20, 2020
When we see someone for the first time, unless we are consciously aware of it, we will fall under the spell of seeing them through our own past and story. There is a part of us that does this automatically. Those judgments we are unaware of without even 'thinking' about it. When we have unconsciously decided what a person is without a second thought. I think this is where we have to throw a spanner in the works...
It's funny, although we know how complex we are individually, we don't realise that other people also have many layers that we will not immediately understand. This is why they say first impressions are important. Not because they explain everything, not even a little bit. But because our mind powerfully decides for us what that person is, based on mere seconds of seeing their appearance.
I think instead of lamenting that we will be judged before we are understood, I think first we should begin with ourselves. To change our own perception of others. Remind ourselves that we all come with a colourful past, a series of experiences and thoughts already with us. Our own unresolved insecurities or shadows may distort reality by not allowing us to see the truth.
With this past lens, we are looking at this new person. If we become more conscious of this, we can get the unfiltered impression of them they deserve. This does take a lot of practice, because this automatic judgment can be so immediate, it can be difficult to think past it. But moments of awareness and consciousness can help us to see people with a fresh pair of lenses. This moment of vulnerability, of giving someone a chance is worth it. It also works both ways. As we did not immediately assume, we will see the reality of a person slowly, for better or worse.
I think we like to mistrust and judge people on sight because this does keep out people who are not good for you. It feels naïve and stupid to give people a chance when they seem like the 'sort of person I don't like'. The issue is that this also keeps out a whole variety of people who are good for us. In other words, pretty much everyone else. Not to forget there are also people who are there to teach us something, to help us grow.
Personally, I now realise, dismissing everything is what's really naïve and stupid. We are so afraid of the odd bad experience, we go out of our way to protect ourselves. No one wants to feel bad but avoiding people is avoiding the opportunities in life.
Like most things, it usually starts with us. Instead of being negative and suspicious on default, I think we should trust ourselves more. I know it's easier said than done. There will be the odd person we meet that leads to 'bad experiences' but will we really dismiss everyone based on this? What a waste. We are stronger and smarter than that. Just make the final judgment a teensy bit later, that's all. It's as simple as that. After you have truly seen their character and behaviour. It will make all the difference.
A beautiful thing happens when we give someone a chance with a unprocessed perspective. Not that every person we meet we will become close with or even like. I think when we practice this clear lens of looking at people, we remove the chance of missing out on a good friend or partner we might have otherwise dismissed.
See this scenario. Once in a while, you'll come across someone a little different but you feel is a kindred spirit or to your surprise are enjoying spending your time with. What may happen in the initial meeting is that due to a past experience you anticipate what they are thinking and what kind of person they are. You decide that this will go nowhere, or don't take it further, based on their similarities to a person we dislike, or impressions we don't like...
But give it a chance! You've clearly got a good head on your shoulders, if you are reading this (no pressure!). So trust yourself. Once in a while, maybe something will go wrong. But will you dismiss everything because of a potential dead end? Catastrophes are truly
Remember, this is not avoiding people who are bad for you, this is about not missing out on people who may enhance your life.
If you are still in the midst of sharpening your accurate judgement of a person, and trusting yourself, I will leave you with these words...
“By looking at a person’s features, clothing, and speech, even Confucius would not be able to say what sort of a person he is. But by testing him in a position and seeing what he does, even someone with so-so judgment would be able to know if he is wise or not" (Han Fei).