The past year I’ve met a lot of new people. When you meet someone for the first time, human natures forces you to start forming an opinion of this person. Do they think like me? Dress like me? Act like me?
I found myself judging people incorrectly if they didn’t sync closely with my view of the world. Completely irrational, but a knee jerk reaction I couldn’t stop.
The fix I’m testing: treat everyone as an “expert” until they prove otherwise. I don’t know in what field they are an expert, but there’s 100% chance they’re more knowledgeable than me about something. On a few occasions, new people I’ve met have proven to be knuckleheads, but the vast majority are not knuckleheads. Until that point of knucklehead proof, thinking of someone as an expert helps reduce the judginess.
I occasionally find myself zoned out during my daily commutes on I-40. The feeling is inevitable. You look up and wonder “Was I just driving the last 10 minutes?” I’m kidding. Kind of.
As traffic starts to thicken and slow, I also find myself not paying attention to the car directly in front of me, but rather about 10 cars ahead. Looking ahead like this allows me to see what’s coming before it happens, kind of like asking customers very broad, forward looking questions to read between the lines and spot industry trends. The risk: I’ve about rear-ended the vehicle in front of me, not paying attention to the impending crash with a giant McDonald’s french fry 18 wheeler.
On the other hand, I frequently check out what’s happening in the rear view mirror longer than needed. Is that Prius going to tailgate me all day? Should I move over for that State Trooper? Looking back proves helpful. I can make corrections to my course and adjust based upon what I’ve learned, but again must avoid plowing into that SUV right in front of me.
Looking back is best in short bursts. On I-40. At work. With customers. With your quarterly and annual reports. Looking ahead works too, as long you don’t rear-end that literal and figurative 18-wheeler in front of you.
Most people here in the Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh area of North Carolina spend too much time in their cars. I’m no exception, with my daily jaunt ranging from 35 – 60 minutes each way between home and work.
The quiet solitude of a commute can be a welcome opportunity to reflect, learn something, or make completely irrational, off-color, inappropriate snap judgements.
More than I care to admit, I find myself cursing the person who has so blatantly ignored my personal philosophy of driving etiquette [it’s only okay to drive like a jerk if I’m doing it]. I sit there perplexed by the driving too fast, too slow, too close, too far away. You’re with me on this, right? The same thing happens at work, the grocery store, the kid’s preschool.
What I’ve come to realize is that those momentary flashes of frustration and judgement, which could be brilliantly colored with a string of profanity, are okay.
They’re okay as long as you realize the snap judgements for what they are, a snap judgment, and then you move on.