Let’s imagine you are going to meet a girl in a coffee shop whom you don’t know or haven’t seen before. You get well dressed and reach the spot in your car. From your car, you can see her sitting in from the glass outside the coffee shop.
She somewhat looks like this:
Now you think that she is ugly.
Now, lets change the girl and see who is sitting there. Think rather than that girl this one was sitting. Now you think she is beautiful.
Let’s take a pause here and really think what is going on in your brain. Let’s start from when we saw her.
In the first case, you saw the girl you then you saw her physical characteristics like she is fat which leads to your conclusion that she is ugly. Before even meeting her you had already formed an opinion for her. Most probably the process looked something like this.
Why has this process become automatic?
Most probably whenever you see someone fat (as per physical characteristics which you don’t’ like), you go through the iteration/process mentioned in the picture. Wherever you go or see glorification by the fashion industry of being zero size or photoshopped images of the perfect models being shown. The problem becomes whenever you see images or models you define beauty as being what is being described by them.
There is another point which comes with this flawed thinking approach. It is your mind which has started to define beauty as people who are slim while others as fat.
How and why is “beautiful” defined as this? The definition of beauty is not what others perceive as beautiful. Yet most of the people think that way.
Let’s try to see this process deeply, how it goes. Let us assume you are new to this world and you do not know the definition of beauty. While going to TV, Internet, etc you see models images which are garnered to refine your concept of beauty. You read articles about them and their dressing sense. So the first time you see such image a connection is formed in the brain.
(Though strong connections are only formed after repeated such opinions)
The number of times you go through these opinions the more you are likely to be influenced by such definitions. It becomes like a self-reinforcing cycle.
After going through this iteration thousands of times (judging people), the reaction of opinion almost becomes automatic. We are very fast in forming opinions or arriving at conclusions before even meeting someone.
Does this mean the person is not fat? Yes, he/she is fat., but it does not mean he/she is ugly.
This thinking is flawed. (Thinking that the person is ugly is flawed)
Let us contrast this with the other image, or mostly when you meet someone with good clothes/ who is rich what the thinking goes like. The iteration or process is somewhat like this. Yes someone may be beautiful as per your definition of beautiful, yet it tells nothing about the person. Physical characteristics rarely tell how a person is like to be friends with, work with, etc.
Basically, both images of girls tell nothing about them. It is just a snapshot at a particular point of time.
Think of a situation, you are a job interviewer: a person in coat comes to meet you while the other one in funky jeans comes for the interview. Most of us may have already formed an opinion about the person before meeting him.
This generally happens when people of minority origins are neglected in most companies. Even biases against women in the workplace is a common fact in work life.
Why forming conclusions early or on recent events can lead to blunders?
Whenever we meet someone we form easy opinions on them based on only one situation.
Example: Imagine you are going to buy a new home and you see that the home is on a street that is not very wide. Many people just shun off here and don’t see the home. If you are too focused on the narrow street you are just focussing on part of the puzzle. (Narrow street is just part of the puzzle there may be many features of the puzzle which you have even missed to consider). We may have neglected features like it has a good balcony, big garden, etc. Overall, most of the times we are just too focused on one part of the puzzle.
In fact, the best investment opportunities in life come when a group of people overrates the negative. Like we did in the housing example and stop considering anything else about the home. If you consider the pros and cons of the house you will get a complete picture. Then you can see as per the positives or negatives how much you should pay for the home. If its cheap than the value you are getting net it is a buy.
Let’s start with another example. You see a boy named X and a girl dining in a restaurant. After a while, the girl starts crying and X leave the restaurant in a fury of anger. Most of us will start forming conclusions about X and start blaming X.
The point is the puzzle of X is very complex. However, zoomed in version (Point of the puzzle which) you are seeing now is just part of the complex equation named MrX. Many people have started forming conclusions about MrX and started gossiping on their table. The world of gossip revolves around this picture (even social networking)
Most of us see a snapshot of a person (Whether he is fat/ whether he did this to someone, whether he is the one like MrX.) and have already formed a conclusion about the person how he/she is. This is generally based on what the society thinks he/she is. (Society as a whole sometimes can be very ineffective). Mostly it is just one part of the puzzle or some parts of the bigger puzzle.
Let’s take the example of any relationship even marriage people in arrange marriages form opinions of statements like these “Iska naak teekha hai”. These are laughable. Yet judgments are made on features like this.
Most us will rate our satisfaction in a relationship based on certain recent events we had with the other person in that relationship. Be it any relationship (Parents, kids, spouse, friends). If we are having fights from past few interactions our whole relationship is bad for that person and vice-versa.
Take the example of any relationship you have with anyone (your friend, spouse, parents) after first few interactions you start forming opinions of the person. Most of us after six months assume that we know the person well. We start forming conclusions about the person how he/she is. Actually, we are just forming our conclusions on the basis of this.
Our View of Reality
We think we know him/her better than anyone else as we base our conclusions on the more recent events which we had with the person (we overweigh them).
However, the true picture is far away from this.
It is this.
Most of the times we are too focused on a part of the puzzle, not the entire puzzle (Like the second image).
And as we overweigh certain recent events (like in above example) we had with the person we forget the past and still consider parts of a person.
Consider this statement. If there are 4-5 consecutive cold days from past, we will say winters have been cold this year. We are forming a conclusion about the winter from 4-5 days of our observation.
If you think you don’t do so, Let me ask a question to all of you? Try this test. How many of you can define your close friends and parents or close relationships? How many of you can define your own self? If you try to make a balance sheet of pros and cons of the person/yourself. Something like this.
Most of us will be able to come with one or two cons maximum. And if you can make the balance sheet when you met them first or for first few years. See how the balance sheet evolves it will take a whole lot different picture. If you assign weights to that pros and cons most of you will overweight or under-weight certain features based on recent past events or particular circumstances. Point is how many of us have really made such balance sheets? (We really think consciously about people) (Two reasons we think we are perfect and can never be wrong, We can form opinions about others very fast)
Think how many politicians we judge or actors/actresses (page 3 news) on a particular news article about them. We already have an opinion on most of the politicians based on our personal biases. Yet very rarely people objectively consider what the government did overall as a whole over 5 years which things were pros which were cons. Most of us will have a judgment on a tweet made by a person, news articles about him or one or two wrong decisions taken by him.
Imperfection and Being wrong Giving us Humility
In fact, making such balance sheets of ones own-self and others help us to acknowledge the fact that we are not perfect. It helps to break down our own ego.
It gives us the humility to think that we can be wrong. Being wrong is good as it gives us the ability to learn from the failure. Agree to the fact that almost everything on this earth even nature, people are imperfect. There is never perfection. Systems are heavily imperfect and yet they can make wonderful outcomes. (There will always be pros and cons)
If anything you consider whether your work, life, friends, family, investments as perfect you are lying or missing out the bigger picture. Imperfection is the fact of nature and life. Though remember imperfection has no link to happiness. The more you see the bigger picture the better humility will come to accept negatives as well as positives and be detached with both.
This will give us the humility to see everything, (even ourselves) as a complete picture with their own pros and cons. Yet we should try to make sure that no one con is so important that it destroys us. Write your cons and pros balance sheet.
Like heavily misjudged statement
“ Parents can never be wrong”
No, they can be wrong, though they are always paying for your welfare, as even they are imperfect their judgments can be wrong. They are seeing only one side of the picture. Seeing the same situation from different viewpoints or caps helps. Another reason could be they are too attached to you. So they can never see you as an outside.
Same goes for overprotective parents for their kids, kids heavily misuse parents (I have been a kid and I can agree) though most of the time parents are smart to figure out kids are lying or misusing them.
As we are really attached to your parents, child, wife, to your own self, friends, idol it is highly unlikely for us to consider an outsider view against them. We heavily under-believe that they can be wrong.
Human beings cant be defined by how they look or dress that accounts for less than <1% of the picture, In reality, if we study each person is very complex as it is the mind which is more important than the body itself.
Yes, we are different, in order to understand the other person’s brain better I think it can take minimum a year before you can think whether this person is good for you or not. It takes more than on average 12 months to 18 months for our brain to form life forming habits. Then why do we form conclusions about people just by seeing them?
How can we improve?
How much time do you spend on dressing up (Choosing clothes if you do it thinking how others would think)? If you do it thinking what will other people think if I wear X or Y.
Think of the time spend on Facebook liking pictures of other people, remember they are just snapshots at a particular point in time.
Norms of what is good or bad are set by your own brain your own thinking or the society in general. It does not mean it is correct as per everyone.
You can think about the best friends you have, with most of them you would have never thought to become good friends in the first meeting, now they will most probably be the gems of your life. You can see this in public life most people value others by their account balance, not their reality.
Though if we don’t train our brain to think the right way we may still fall into this trap of looking at smaller things and forming biases. As with each iteration, the bias will magnify.
Though I think meditation, exercise, and open-mindedness helps. Another useful technique is to pause and always judge our conclusions with questioning ourselves on how do we know we are right? Another technique is to make a balance sheet and see it evolve over time. Take time to arrive at judgments. Have the humility to say ‘I don’t know’. Knowing what you don’t know is better than knowing what you know.
The good thing about our brain is the way it magnifies bad behavior, in a similar process based way if right way is taught to our brain after a certain period of time right way of thinking becomes automatic.
Another question always remember that there is a trade-off in every situation/decision. If you cant find the tradeoff you are probably making a mistake.
Be happy and train your brain like a child not like Hitler. Remember the only way to evolve is to make mistakes and fail. Laugh at your mistakes and learn a lot from them so that they never repeat again.
The author of this article may still be struggling with the flawed thinking approach.
Disclaimer: Images of Both girls are for representation purposes only. The author has no opinions about them. He considers them both equally beautiful.