“Replace judgement with curiosity.”
We are creatures who process a significant amount of data in a very short time. Our minds soak in the input of senses coming in from all around us, and process them based on the database of experiences that we’ve had. But as a perfectly natural part of this process is the tendency to categorize. With so much information, categorizing helps us quickly identify similar patterns so that we can connect it with our experiences. The downside of categorization is that it can sometimes lead to stereotyping, particularly when there isn’t enough information and we naturally fill in the gaps.
Sometimes when we detect a familiar characteristic in a person, we categorize them with people we’ve met in the past who have shared a similar characteristic. And although this helps us understand people and make decisions on a conscious and subconscious level (a gut feeling about someone for example), it deprives us from really understanding the depth and complexity of a person. This is problematic especially when our first impressions can be so ridgid and unchanging.
Another problem of this categorization is when we place someone into a category we are familiar with, and they break that category by displaying a characteristic we didn’t expect. Suddenly, we are trying to superimpose our own understanding of WHY a person behaved as they did, or why they demonstrated that characteristic without actually understanding their reasons, their “why”. In this way, we judge a person, categorizing them, even before they’ve had a chance to be who they naturally are.
But rather than being so quick to judge and categorize, if we could recognize that there is a chance we could be wrong about a person, and admit that a vast majority of humans aren’t one dimensional beings, and instead have layers of complexity and rich histories that can appear contradictory, we may be able to understand the people around us.
Challenge yourself with new people you meet, and people you’ve known your whole life: Rather than judge, take interest in a person, uncover their layers, their histories, their experiences, and give them a chance to input in your understanding of them. Open your mind to the possibility that your initial impression can be wrong, or lacking, and you’ll allow yourself the priviledge of understanding the people around you.