How often has a first impression led to a bad assessment of a person’s character or abilities? Or, how often have you reacted to a situation, only to discover later that you did not have all the information and, therefore, made a bad decision? Are the memories causing you to shiver?
This happens to all of us far too often. So, here are 3 simple principles that will help you to make better assessments and decisions … if you will take the time.
Ken Davis is a comedian, author and expert on public speaking. He has started a podcast called The Art And Business Of Public Speaking, which I recommend you subscribe to, if you are interested in this topic. An episode I was listening to recently contained an interview with New York Times best-selling author and speaker Andy Andrews. Andy shared a maxim of an early mentor of his that stood out for me:
Don’t believe everything you’re thinking.
Now that really got me thinking, but I don’t believe any of it —see, I pay attention!
Jokes aside, I would add to this idea,
Don’t trust everything you’re feeling.
We rely on ourselves far more than we should and disappoint ourselves more often than we’d like. Despite all we think we know, we too often react to people and situations, making assessments and decisions, without taking the time and care that the import of such assessments and decisions truly require of us.
For instance, you’re hungry and you need lunch. Your brain immediately steers you to the nearest fast food outlet because it’s, well, near. If you thought about it for just a moment, you might walk a little further to find something healthier to eat … but you go for the unhealthy, but tasty, takeaway anyway!
Or, someone tells you a rumour about that guy at the party. You didn’t like the look of him anyway, so you quickly dismiss him as a ‘no-hoper’. Later, you discover that, despite his grungy, hipster appearance, he is actually the founder of a start-up recently bought out by Google in a multi-million dollar deal.
We can be so sloppy and careless, so often, that we miss relationships and opportunities from which we could have benefited greatly, if we just took the time.
Taking the Time
By “taking the time”, I mean that a proactive person is inquisitive and asks lots of questions, seeking all the facts required to make an honest assessment of a person. They have come to learn that their first impression of a person may not be correct and may not lead them toward a fair assessment of that person. This is why we don’t hire a person from his résumé alone, but meet him for an interview, for instance.
A proactive person recognizes that he may not know all there is to know about a subject, so does research toward determining a course of action. For example, we don’t trust the media commentator’s prediction of the rising value of a stock, as exciting as it may sound, but download the prospectus ourselves before making an investment.
For the lazy or reactive person, they will rely on first impressions and snap judgements, yet fail time and time again. They don’t challenge what they’re thinking and they trust their emotions far too easily. They then wonder why they are lonely and their life does not seem to be getting anywhere.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ […]
We all want respect people we meet for who they are and to do the right thing in the situations we face, yet the easy way out is to believe what we’re thinking and trust our emotions. These deceive us far too easily. Yet, taking the time to challenge our emotions and gather knowledge results in better relationships and deeper insight (I’ve written about being real in relationships here). Not only better relationships but better courses of action —we will do the right things and be blameless in our choices.
My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
preserve sound judgement and discretion;
they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.
Then you will go on your way in safety,
and your foot will not stumble.
And how much do others respect us more when we demonstrate thoughtfulness and care in taking the time to get to know a person or gathering all the data required for making good decisions? This alone makes taking the time worth it.
There are 3 principles I believe will help you to “take the time”. They are not the only principles, but are good, easy ones to start with.
I used to blame my problems on other people. But my moment of clarity, if you want to call it that, came when I was looking in the mirror one day and just burst into tears. It wasn’t just that I looked bad, it was that I knew my problem was me.
When a situation confronts us, decisions are often required. But what decisions? What information do we have with which to make a decision? Often, we don’t have all the information nor do we completely understand what is required of us.
Take the time to clarify. If a decision is required, ask yourself: Exactly what decision is required? What do I need to know in order to make that decision? If an assessment of a person is required, ask yourself: What do I know about this person? What can I know about this person? Why am I reacting this way to him? Go beyond the first impression to learn more about a person before you make an assessment of their character.
Ideologies, however appealing, cannot shape the whole structure of perceptions and conduct unless they are embedded in daily experiences that confirm them.
Rumours and a 24 hour news cycle provide a glut of information, and it can overwhelm us into relying on emotion and snap judgements. We then become victims to our own negligence because we bear the responsibility of our assessments of people and quick decisions, regardless of who fed us prior information. Check the facts! Confirm what you think you know until you do, in fact, know what you need to know.
A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.
(John C. Maxwell)
I could not have said it better myself! Maxwell is spot on. (Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If, also captures some of the spirit of this thought but is too long to reproduce here)
After you’ve made a faulty assessment or snap decision, take the time to correct the information at the source and fix the damage done. Your integrity will be boosted and you just may make a new friend in the process!
As I already noted, these are not the only principles that you can use to help you make better assessments of people and better decisions in the situations you will face, but they are simple and a good place to start. To break it down even further: Don’t believe everything you’re thinking; don’t trust everything you’re feeling; take the time!
Take the time to get to know people, after your first impression. Take the time to gather all the information you need for making a good decision. This is not always possible, but you will reap great rewards when you do.
When have you made a bad assessment of a person or quick decision that led to a poor outcome? What wisdom was gained in the process?
When have you made a good assessment or decision? Let us celebrate with your having taken the time.