Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Look in A Mirror

Each month I attend a manly meeting. One member presents a "paper," the others listen and ask questions, then we visit around a table of refreshments. We leave the meeting knowing a little more than before.

At first I feel awkward, out of place (except for being male), almost hypocritical, anti-intellectual. Then I relax and see myself speaking, focused on a narrow line of inquiry, normally of little interest to anyone else. Gotta smile, so self-possessed, somewhat peculiarly dressed, sounding passionate about something arcane, listening like a ghost from a ceiling corner.

A long time ago a mentor suggested that if I don't like someone when I first meet him or her, I should try to identify what it is that bothers me. I might discover in that thing, that feature, something I don't appreciate about myself. This insight has served me well, and bad first impressions sometimes have developed into valuable relationships.

"Ah," says Virginia. "In a way, this turns on its head the accepted importance of first impressions."

I recall a conversation I watched 15 to 20 years ago. Someone began, "So you're a runner?" I nodded. Another person said, "Have you ever noticed runners are never smiling?" I said, "Well, if you ever see me running, maybe you'll notice something else."

So, this person is driving his car and sees a runner, for three seconds. The runner isn't smiling. He thinks, runners aren't happy people.

Okay, so Tom the window-peeper sees this fellow hunched over his stamp collection, not smiling. He thinks, stamp collectors aren't happy people.

"I drove past the ninth hole yesterday," says Virginia. "And the four-some was laughing. Maybe I should take up golf."

Let me just say, think about it...and a mirror might come in handy.

1 comment:

  1. I just returned from a huge scientific meeting that was just as much networking as science. Ideally one's work would speak for itself and the personality behind the work would be irrelevant. But that works only if we are robots. I found my self thinking about first impressions and their importance. Good advice on pinpointing exactly what it is about someone that turns you off. Most of the time I find its due to either my own jealousy or resentment, maybe a mix of the two.