Did you ever notice how people determine your value based on exceedingly flimsy data? For example, we draw on memories of how others behave and subconsciously assign these behavioral expectations to strangers merely because something about them triggers a memory. It could be the color of their skin, the way they dress, or even the scent they wear. Our minds decide the person fits in a predetermined category almost instantly.
It’s a human trait to conclude based on very little information. It’s the reason science is a thing. Science deliberately bases conclusions only on evidence. Without evidence, it’s just a theory subject to being disproved at any time. These fields of study exist because it’s counter to the way humans typically think. Training and education are customarily required to obtain the ability to think scientifically.
Have you noticed how people are reluctant to alter their perception of others, even when counter-evidence presents itself? How we’re usually surprised when someone exhibits behaviors that don’t fit with the category we assigned them? And how we often throw Occam’s razor out the window and instead, come up with outlandish reasons why a person is defying our initial impression so we can continue to define our initial theory as fact? 😶
I’ve wondered why we’re like this, and come up with a few theories to explain it. I postulate it’s because our lives are short and we’re generally intellectually lazy. Further, I suspect we’re intellectually lazy because our lives are short. We don’t have time to analyze every thought and determine whether it’s evidence-based or assumption. (Granted, as a fellow human, I’m unwilling to carry the unflattering label without the caveat.) 😂
Despite this reasonable theory of why we behave this way, it deeply saddens me. I’ve stated several times I’m most fascinated by people. I believe we’re each a universe of information, experiences, thoughts, etc. I enjoy observing and listening to people and trying on their unique perspective. Through trial and error, I’m learning to be more respectful in how I do this. (Such as being more conscious of how long I can look at someone before it’s staring.)
I regret we have so little time, and therefore, don’t usually recognize how everyone we encounter is incredible in their unique way. We all hurt when rejected, so many of us build walls out of self-preservation. We present a side of ourselves based on past treatment and rejections we’ve experienced. We perpetually tweak our presentation to yield the least amount of pain. Some of us are less able to alter our presentation and settle for avoidance and isolation, instead.
It’s a complex operation, and I freely admit I’m more prone to avoidance and isolation. I lack the necessary sophistication and am far less apt at reading body language than most. On top of that, I’m sensitive to the energy of others, which makes it far more challenging. I can easily sense rejection but suck at narrowing down the cause. It’s frustrating, (she said while claiming the Understatement of the Year award.)
It saddens me because we so quickly reject those who aren’t instantly comprehensible. Those who are so different, we’d have to create a new category on the fly to process them into our existing catalog. It’s so much easier to label them as strange and disengage. I have a strong theory that these encounters with unusual strangers are opportunities to grow and expand ourselves. But only if we’re willing to spend a bit of time connecting with them, and opening ourselves to differences.
I truly believe, based on my own experiences, that ignoring the initial inclination to reject someone because they’re different is a shortcut to overall growth as a person. Sure, it may take a moment to wrap your mind around something new, but I think it’s an investment in your character. You stretch your mind to encompass something new, and in doing so, expand yourself. And finally, my point. I challenge everyone who reads this to test my theory in 2019. To consciously and deliberately connect with people you encounter who are different than those you’ve bonded with in the past, and see if it leads to personal growth. 💜✌🏽💪🏽