The Discipline of Looking Beyond First Impressions

Yesterday, I moderated a webinar discussion about automation of an assembly line. We were all guys and all European-looking guys except for one who was most likely Asian. Typical group of presenters in my field.

Later I tuned into another “virtual conference” where the moderator was a 30-ish woman wearing bold colors and outlandish glasses. One of the presenters had her boldly colored hair close cropped on the sides and longish and styled on the top (the modern style, I guess). The other presenters were a mix of females and males.

The contrast could not have been sharper. Same industry. Still discussing engineering and automation. I confess, I had to blink twice before settling into the flow of their conversation.

We can go back in time to the late 1600s in North America. William Penn was awarded a tract of land by the King of England upon which to build a colony (hopefully loyal to the Crown, but 100 years later…). He called the colony after himself–Penn’s Woods or more poetically Pennsylvania.

He studied the local tribe of indigenous people in what is now New Jersey. He found, to his surprise, “I find them of a deep natural sagacity. The low disposition of the poor Indian out shines the lives of those Christians, that pretend an higher.”

We too easily pass a quick judgement upon people we see or hear about. We may find that there is much to learn from and to love about each if we were to only open our hearts.

In these days of pandemic, we may not be seeing a great diversity of people. As we start to venture forth again, perhaps we can forge a discipline of second impressions–delaying the first impression for a bit until we really see the person.

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