When I taught at University just a few years ago we ran a group activity in the first few weeks of University semester that was called First Impressions.
The walls of the classroom were lined with more than 20 photographs of different types of people – different cultures and sub-cultures. I chose an African man, a model perfect woman, a young man with spikey blue hair with a young boy laughing, an Indigenous Australian Elder, a teenager dressed in black, a Chinese woman (well, a man dressed as a woman), an Indian woman in a field, a smiling business man.
Now imagine yourself walking around the classroom and looking at the different pictures. Take some time to write down what your first impression is about that person.
When you meet someone for the first time there’s an automatic thought that pops into your head. This thought is part of your programming. It’s what you’ve been taught to think about certain people.
IS IT THE TRUTH?
When you first meet someone – in the first few minutes of seeing them – it’s impossible to know the truth about their life. And, even when you learn some truths about their life, your mind twists it to what you know to be true from what you’ve been taught previously.
Let me give you an example:
One day, after I was aware of my thoughts and was watching them carefully, I saw a young man with a baseball cap on backwards and baggy clothes standing outside a Chinese takeaway restaurant. Immediately my thoughts thought, “Bad person. Thief. Danger”… and the young (white) man received his food and left. I had to laugh at my immediate judgement of him.
What if it wasn’t true?
He could have been an overseas backpacker from Germany dressed in a cool style.
OR he could have been a hard studying University student in-between assignments.
Judgements and Assumptions have their place in our mind. But the trick is to observe their automatic pattern and wait to find out the truth. A bad assumption about someone automatically puts up a wall of defence leaving you out in the cold where a connection or possible advantage is missed.
I’m travelling about meeting different people all the time. If I made a BAD assumption about everyone I would be alienated to fend for myself.
Instead I observe my thoughts and expect the BEST from everyone I meet. (Of course, there are exceptions to the rule and I judge the situation for the best possible outcome – including leaving the area if people give me a bad vibe).
Don’t take your thoughts seriously though…
Seriously… they’re NOT the TRUTH!
Thoughts only pre-programmed beliefs that society and the world around you told you was true – but to someone else – the facts may be different.
Assumptions can ruin connections, relations and relationships. They’re dangerous.
But also useful.
Guard yourself against dangerous assumptions when necessary. If you find yourself jumping to a conclusion or assumption before you have a chance to weigh up the truth of the situation you may be limiting yourself to a new opportunity.
For instance, if a young entrepreneur (dress in daggy jeans and a baseball cap) was having lunch at a café near you…. and you were looking for a new job to expand your horizons… and the young man saw you sitting there with your laptop looking at employment websites and approaches you.. but you cut him short with a frown on your face because you assumed he was a “bad teenager without any money” you’d lose an opportunity to work at a high end internet company.
There’s opportunity every where… around every corner…
Watch your thoughts… observe your assumptions….
And CONSCIOUSLY CHOOSE what you want to think … CHOOSE THE THOUGHTS that will expand your horizons and open up new opportunities.