I consider myself to be a good judge of character, and most people give off an energy when you first meet them, so that you can usually tell from initial impressions if you’re likely to get on or not. However, I had a few incidents this week which gave me pause for thought.
The first was while I was walking in the woods. I encountered a man who, like me, was looking for birds, but, unlike most birders, seemed very taciturn and self-contained. Usually, I exchange greetings with fellow bird enthusiasts, but as he was very much keeping to himself, I didn’t approach him. Later on, I saw him further down the path, and without preamble, he came up to me, pointed to a tree and said, quite pleasantly, ‘if you look there, you’ll see a screech owl.’ Wow, how wonderful was that! He mentioned spotting it on the way in and promptly departed, leaving me to enjoy it on my own.
Another encounter I had was at a social group outing. There was someone I had met before who was often crude and made inappropriate comments. I cringed when he sat next to me, but to my surprise, that afternoon he was very pleasant, witty, and all of his comments were PG.
There is usually more to people than the packages they come in – like onions, with layers that get peeled over time. It’s easy to make judgments about people because it’s a kind of a short cut. The problem is that our expectations of someone can get in the way of our real-life encounter and often let us down. For example, at another group outing recently, I saw some people I had chatted with many times before and they essentially blanked me. So until you have built a stronger relationship with someone, it’s probably best to shelve any preconceived expectations and just meet them where they’re at upon your next encounter.
It means that we can be open to the energy and possibilities that arise in the situation. Of course, I’m not suggested to plunge head first into scenarios that have shown themselves to be harmful or toxic. But in other settings, it can be helpful to give people a chance or to just face an experience it comes. At very least, there are always opportunities to learn something from others which can help you in your life. At best, we can have an enjoyable and maybe surprising interaction, and even the possibility of it developing into something more.