When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. – Maya Angelou
What does that mean?
This quote is about perception, and how difficult it can be to overcome our pre-conceived notions of someone. This quote is about believing what a person demonstrates themselves to be, regardless of who they claim they are.
Consider someone who looks like a used car salesman. You meet them walking around in the mall, and you are instantly on your guard. You probably won’t believe that they are a nice person with a poor choice of wardrobe. It will take quite a bit of convincing.
Conversely, if we see someone who looks trustworthy, they may be able to do bad things to us multiple times before we believe who they truly are. To me, that is what this quote is about. Allowing a person to demonstrate who they really are, and believing them, the first time.
Why is being observant important?
It’s easy to be swayed by feelings. It’s easy to allow ourselves to be swayed by what they look like, how they sound, what their style is, etc. Most of us want to trust people, and give them an opportunity. The more they match our profile of what a good person is, the harder it will be to ever believe they are something else.
Consider some of the recent news about coaches and other adults in positions of respect and power. Despite acting in a manner which showed them to be other than who they claimed to be, they continued to be trusted and respected. We chose to believe our pre-conceived notions, rather than the facts we observed.
Unfortunately, it works the other way around as well. There are people who match our personal definition of ‘shady’ or otherwise seem disreputable. How many times do they have to do things right before we believe that they are respectable and can be trusted? I suppose it depends on how many times you have had your trust betrayed.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Hopefully, you already do, to some extent. How carefully do you scrutinize someone when you first meet them? How long are they on ‘secret probation’ in your mind, before you decide if they are who you hope or think that they actually are?
For some, the time is likely too short, and for others it is too long. In addition to the time factor, there is the observation factor. How carefully are you paying attention? Have you checked any of their references? This might be overkill for a casual friend, but if they want money, you might want to be careful, right?
As usual, it is a question of balance. Press too hard and you start to get paranoid. Too little, and the people with bad intentions will take advantage of you. However, the people with good intentions might take the opportunity, and use it to impress you.
What is too much, and what is too little? That’s a personal call. It will depend on your nature, and how often you have trusted and been burned. We will all have our own lines, and they will change over time, and even from person to person.
Some people are just more likable than others. And some use it to their advantage. My advice is to keep a close eye on new friends. If they’re doing the right things, relax a little. But if they start acting in odd or contrary to expectations, that’s when this quote kicks in.
If you get the feeling that you are being used or taken advantage of, it might just be time to pull back a bit, and limit your exposure. Be courteous and try to find out what is going on, but view any explanations with a bit of skepticism.
Take a moment and consider what has happened to you in the past. Of the times you have been burned, how many of them were preceded by clues you should have seen? Think about it, and try to determine how to apply those lessons to your present life.
While we usually take some time to review what went wrong when it happens, how often do you look back across multiple events? Are there any patterns, any things you find you have done over and over? If you found any patterns, what can you do to protect yourself (or others) from making the same mistake again?
Life is about learning, and this is one of the lessons. We all have different levels of tolerance for unwanted or unwelcome behavior, as well as different definitions of these terms. But we all draw the line somewhere. By being attentive and observant, we can more quickly reward those we believe in, and turn loose those we don’t.
From: Twitter, @TheSingleWoman
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/mayaangelo383371.html
Photo by andyi
Happy birthday to Maya Angelou, born 4 April 1928.