I remember when I was younger, I had plenty of reckless conversations. I assumed that my personality is evident to my listener and they would know what I really mean by the words I use.
I also thought that what I say is not necessarily what I mean and that everyone can tell a joke from a statement. Well, I couldn’t be more wrong. Everything I said made an image of me in front of the people I met, especially the people I just met. Every word that left my lips became an integral part of who I was in their minds. This is why the first impressions are given so much importance.
A study suggests that we form impressions within a fraction of a second, the object in question is categorised as soon as we perceive it. Just like we throw the whites in the washer together, we also compartmentalise people in our minds. Their facial features and perhaps the first few actions we witness them do are the building blocks of our impressions of them.
The study also reveals that as human beings we are drawn to trustworthiness in others. They speculate that this could be because as a social animal, trust is necessary for survival. We require other members of society to help us survive, hence, we must know if we can trust them; it isn’t a major coincidence that the organisations advertise this quality in their ad campaigns.
So in order to live mindfully, one has to come to terms with this truth. I recently had a conversation with someone that allowed me a perspective I hadn’t indulged in before.
She pointed out that we really do not pay attention to what our first impressions might be like. To us, it simply is the matter of who we are, not what we want to portray. We wish for other people to understand us the way we ourselves do. The few moments that we spend with them seem sufficient to us to believe that they will be able to understand our words the way we mean them but not how else they can sound. We do not consider that a sentence can be perceived as a joke as well as an insult.
“Your friends will know you better in the first minute you meet than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years.”
― Richard Bach.
So, now the alternative is to make use of the information of the study and try to put our best foot forward. One will agree that it is not always possible; we may look insincere and rehearsed which is neither attractive nor trustworthy. This really did make matters more complicated than they needed to be.
But hold on, why do we care so much about what people may think of us? But of course, the survival instinct and the trust correlation! We need people we can trust and hence we require them to trust us back. Whether it is an interview or just meeting your spouse’s new friend, we desire to have them understand us and in all honesty like what they have understood. The motivation of the LIKE button on Facebook drives us to extremes seldom.
Let us face it then, ‘We really do give a duck about feeling liked’. There is really no denying it. So now do we resort to using this information and manipulate others into liking us? Or can we just admit that we will never be liked by everyone? Being liked for who we are is what truly rewards our soul, so any inconsistencies with our true self will be picked up by our audience as insincerity.
I am happy feeling a myriad of things but feeling insincere is not among my favourite places to be. So I asked myself the golden question, ‘Who am I?’ The answer surprised me a lot. I imagine myself to be an individual who is both the actor and spectator of a grand play, a show that is full of as much pleasure as pain and as much thrill as suspense. And just like a play, one can interpret it as one liked.
So as an actor I try to play my part as best as I can and as a spectator, I try to interpret it the way I find most entertaining. I imagine myself inside as well as outside of this magnificent stage and that is what for I would like to be liked. If another individual is able to comprehend my part in this scheme then I have made a friend.
So my real project was to embody this definition and hope to be identified. The next question was, ‘Who am I for?’ This question, I was reminded, had more significance than the first one. I am mostly aware of who I am, however, it’s my audience I need to persuade. So who are they? My close family and friends or my niche or every person I come in contact with?
I was told by my father that sometimes it takes mere moments to find friendship and sometimes it can take ages. So, as a rule, I was encouraged to let life surprise me rather than build expectations; and life has taught me very well that expectations are the root of disappointment.
I come from a regular background and have had a fairly regular life. I see just as much sorrow and joy as most of us do in our universe. I have also had the same experiences of life as most of us. I had a family and friends among whom I was closer to few and distant from others during different times of this journey.
I recollected from childhood that a compliment from certain members of my family or school just meant more to me than the rest. Why was that? The object was the very same so how does it matter whether the observation was my mother’s or my teacher’s?
Well, it does; the context matters, the moment matters. When a teacher observed progress it was in relation to my earlier work, whereas, my mother was ignorant of it; similarly, my teacher was unfazed when she had her first cup of tea with me, whereas, my mother and I silently enjoyed the first cup of tea I ever brewed and those nods were sufficient for us to share a moment of complete understanding.
A song in my language says, ‘the moment that is about to come is also about to go; if it is possible, live your life in it since this moment is really about to go.’ I concluded that to expect any devotion from any entity is fruitless because every moment is just as independent of time as it is a part of it.
One leg in the Past, another in the future; that is probably why we often piss on our present. – DJ from Rang De Basanti.
Therefore, I must try to live it in reality, to treat the past as memory one can learn from and the future as a hypothesis that can be built on. But to never forget to have my feet firmly in my present which is truly the only reality we know. So the only people I require to convince will be the ones I am with presently.
Honesty is the best policy, they say. I agree. I would rather have a conversation sincerely and get rewarded with understanding a few times than manipulate and be dissatisfied with its falsehood many times. Sincerity is defined as the absence of pretence, deceit, or hypocrisy; in speaking as well as listening. It is a virtue which minimises misunderstanding.