We humans pre-judge each other very quickly. We all do it to some extent, even though we don't like to admit it. I was recently pre-judged and got to hear about it from the source, which is a pretty rare occurrence. Usually we never know the things people decide about us behind our back, and often these can have a material impact on our careers.
After a speech I delivered to a group of meeting planners, one audience member came up and said, "Wow, you were really good! I have heard your name before. In fact my association considered using you for our conference, but I assumed your message would be different, so I nixed you as a possibility." When I asked her what she had expected from my talk, surprisingly she could not produce an answer. We had a wonderful chat, and I was not offended by her sharing this information, as it was an eye opener. She ended our conversation by saying we will definitely talk about next year's conference.
It hurts to know that people's impressions of you are not always on target, and it is even more disappointing when those false impressions cause you to lose out on an opportunity for business. But what I realized in that moment was this: it happens all the time. Since then, I have tried to be very tuned in to what others say about people that they barely know. It is amazing how often they have strong opinions (both positive and negative) when they have little to no first-hand knowledge of the person.
If we don't like when others pre-judge us without full understanding of our motivations, then we should make an effort to overcome our own urges to place people in a box on a shelf. I believe the definition of the word "know" in our society has changed in recent years because of social media. Now we all seem to "know" everyone. It used to be a process to get to know someone, but with a quick scan of a LinkedIn profile we think we have the whole picture (news flash: we don't). We humans are complicated creatures. Can we know the soul of another from reading their tweets?
The meetings business is fast paced, and we all need to make quick decisions. Investing the time in getting to know others can be hard, especially with a long to-do list and a ton of deadlines. But in our industry all opportunities come from people, so the more we choose to get closer to others, the more we win in the long run.
Our personal "gut" feelings are always present when making decisions, and questioning ourselves when we jump to a conclusion can be difficult. There are people who claim to have sixth sense about others and make a habit of always trusting their gut, even without checking any facts. While I am a believer in trusting your instincts, I have also found in my own life that I can be wrong. It's important for all of us to audit our own opinions from time to time and decide if our feelings about people are based on facts — or if we are jumping to conclusions.An audit of our own opinions is not easy to do, but when we give others a second chance we also open ourselves up to more opportunities. While a pessimist would say we also expose ourselves to disappointment, I choose to see the upside.
In a social media crazy world, we have to remember that getting to know someone is a process that is ongoing. Human to human relationships take time to develop and involve meaningful interactions to reach a realistic understanding of the other person's motivations.What opinion of someone else should you revisit?