“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. People know themselves much better than you do. That's why it's important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are.” - Maya Angelou.
Have you ever met someone and had an immediate feeling about them? You know, that feeling you can’t really explain but somehow you know there’s something not quite right about them. Or, maybe you know instantly that this person is genuine, honest and super awesome and you can’t wait to become besties.
I’ve been really in touch with my ‘people radar’ — or spidey sense, intuition, whatever you want to call it — since I was a little kid. I’ve always had quick and strong impressions about people and oddly enough, my perceptions turn out to be right more often than not.
Don’t get me wrong, of course, sometimes I’m totally off and I didn’t see something coming. Shady Mcshadester ends up wowing me and becoming someone I respect or Mr. Awesomesauce turns out to be someone I wish I never met and, if given the opportunity, I’d gladly ‘accidentally’ hit them with my car.
We all have this ability to evaluate people and situations uber quickly. It’s called thin-slicing. Side note, this is just one of the reasons I think human beings are so cool. We have the ability to make a relatively accurate judgment of someone in about the same time it takes to warm up a pizza pocket.
How amazing is it that our brains can analyze an array of data into this specific indescribable feeling that causes us to just know something about someone. This is how I imagine the computation of this inside our heads:
But, back to the quote at the beginning by Maya Angelou…
I have a hard time with this because ultimately, I want to see the best in people. I think it's only human to want to give people chances (sometimes too many) to redeem themselves and to believe that they can be their best selves.
So, sometimes, I ignore the results of my “thin-slices.”
I’m sure you’ve battled with this too at one point or another in your life. All the “signs” point to run the other way and the “red flags” are viciously waving, but yet, you do the opposite of what you should. You stay in that toxic relationship for far too long, or you enter into a partnership with someone you had doubts about from the get-go, or you lend money to that friend that you know is unlikely to ever pay you back.
And, I don’t blame you. I’ve done the same and I’ve caused myself tremendous unnecessary heartache.
I mean, it’s easy to dismiss our thin slices because how can we objectively quantify them.
Instead, we secretly expect people to be how we hope they will be…and then we become disappointed when they don’t meet our expectations.
And, this is the part that isn’t fair.
We can’t expect other people to be anything other than who they are.
People can change, of course. They can change their minds, their appearance, and some basic things pretty quickly. But really ingrained habits, I’d say, are rarely changed over night.
I don’t think you should necessarily write someone or something off at the first sign of potential trouble. But, when someone shows you that they’re unreliable, that they’re flaky, that they’re dishonest, or that their self-interest always trumps everything, I’d say for the most part, those signs turn out to be pretty good indicators of what’s to come.
So, next time when someone shows you who they are, take it in. File that thin slice in your mental filing cabinet instead of dismissing it. When they continue to show you the same behavior time and again, they’re showing you exactly who they are.
If you didn’t believe it the first time, believe it now.
Expecting anything else will only set yourself up for disappointment.
What you do moving forward, is on you.