Friday, June 22, 2007

Seeing People

Truly seeing people for who they are, how they want to be perceived, or who they want to be is a time-consuming/challenging task. When I seeing someone out in public, I often with just a glance pick them out as someone I have seen before--categorize them (is categorizing an innate human habit??) into one of the groups I have come to know and more likely one of the groups of people I've come to prefer. Example: If I like people who are athletic, I'm more likely to decide this random woman on the street in tennis shoes is an athlete. I suppose this is to make my surroundings feel more familiar or comfortable. If I decide that I like/can relate to athletic people, then wouldn't it be nice to live in a society full of them?

These first notions of people are not always true, however. We must see much more of a person to perceive them as they are. And we must get to know people through conversations and several different interactions over time to understand them. I have begun reading a book with a friend: Reading People by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius about getting to know people by their image, body language, conversation and much more. Dimitrius is a long-term Jury Consulter and has had to perfect this "art" over many years. She reinforces often the importance of seeing the whole person and an image of a person based on small things. Still I find it challenging to read about signs of say 'frustration' through body language or how clothing can represent a person. I understand that there is some validity in these things, but it goes against everything I stand for in not judging a person. I will keep reading, however, before I judge the book.

Below is an example of how I saw a man on BART in two different ways just based of how much I could see him and his actions.

I know judgment is a necessary tool to humans, and I use it often. I just hope that I and others can constantly improve our judgment to be used for safety and understanding.