People are so much more than that what you see in a first glance. Unfortunately, you can see race, height, the color of someone’s eyes, and how they are dressed. You can’t see the experience they have. You can’t see what makes them sad or happy. You have no idea if they struggle with loss, or if they need support. They could be a millionaire, dressed in flip flops, and cut off jeans. They could also be homeless, dressed in a suit and tie. We make assumptions about people so often, but we have lost the ability to ask questions and make conversation.
I’m often amazed when I see patients and they talk about their past. Whether they are old or young, they all have stories. They have things that they are proud of and accomplishments, and sometimes they have a deep sadness that they can’t manage anymore. They come to me for help, but they also come with an expectation that they will be judged for whatever they need. I do my best to listen, and to provide support, but often they struggle to trust me. Sometimes, they have issues with trust that are affecting their happiness, and that becomes to goal for treatment.
I’m often sad when I hear people talking about others. They make judgements and assumptions around how someone looks, because it’s easier than taking the risk of getting to know someone. It happens in high school and college as cliques form and lines are drawn. When I think about this, I think about the Breakfast Club, the 80’s movie with the students in detention. The jock and the princess, the brain and the criminal, and the basket case represent the groups that come from our labels. Scratch beneath the surface of those characters and they all had things in common. They all had issues in school, expectations that created a path for them, and a struggle to find out who they really are.
When you meet people, don’t just say hi and judge them by their looks and their dress. I have worked with people of different classes, races, and backgrounds. I have worked with homeless people, who were more proud than some with the financial resources that kept them warm and housed. I have worked with others who had so many resources, but were so sad they struggled to get out of bed every day. Don’t think that just because someone smiles, they are happy, and don’t think that just because someone is sad, that their lives are miserable. Some homeless would love to find housing, and some with housing would like to be homeless because there is a freedom that comes with no responsibility. Meet people and find out what they like. Find out about their goals and dreams. Ask about their family, and where they come from. Only with information can you find out about who they are. If someone wants to get to know you, help them understand who you are. Don’t let them take advantage of you, but allow them to get to know you as you get to know them.
Reading people isn’t easy, and it takes time and conversation. Don’t make assumptions based only on what you see in the moment you see them. Take the time and talk. If you get to know someone and they take advantage of you, don’t stay in the relationship. If you get to know someone and they turn out to teach you something, think if it as a gift. Reading people shouldn’t happen in a moment. It happens in time, and it’s part of being happy, for life.