Never judge a book by its cover is something we are taught as children, however at some point in time we all start making sweeping snap judgments of individuals and situations based purely on first impressions. Everybody has a back story and history that we will never know if we continue to make judgmental decisions made on a combination of gut feel, personal prejudice, and intuition?

Being judgmental is something that we are all guilty of, some of us worse than others. We all have a script that we work to based on our conditioning, the way we think the world should look, work and what should happen. If we are not careful and aware of this we can prejudge everybody else according to our filters and then become prejudiced against others.

When we’re sitting in front of the television watching a film, and we make some comment about a particular actor, who happens to be large, small, blue, black or green, then we’re making a judgment about how they look, whether they are attractive (or not), a good actor (or not) according to our conditioning. We are judging them for no particular reason and with no benefit to anyone as a result of doing it, it’s just being judgmental.

The same can be said when somebody walks into our office at work, or into a meeting that we’re attending. We straightaway make a judgment based on the first impressions in our minds as to whether or not this person is competent or skilled, whether or not this person is able to see through the task in hand that we are meeting them for. The fact that they have trainers on or that they have a three piece suit on with a very smart tie or the handbag is from a famous expensive designer versus one that’s just straight from the high street shouldn’t be taken into consideration – but it does.

Whatever it is we make sweeping judgments based on first impressions which then becomes really difficult to change our point of view of that person. The classic example being the handshake. Now, in times of pandemics and social distancing clearly the handshake is something that’s no longer relevant. This was a simple way of pre vetting an individual: did they give us the “wet fish”, the “hand crusher”, or did they give us a firm but not too firm handshake whilst looking us in the eye?

These are safety or potentially survival techniques we have developed over time to help make informed insightful decisions based on those first impressions. Over time, assuming we get it right, we then adopt those criteria as our way of working forever, if it’s not broken then we won’t look to change our approach.

The ideal objective is to work and socialise with people we like and get on with according to mutual connections, ideals and thinking. Would we spend £50,000 with them as a supplier over several years, would we introduce them to somebody else we know who needs their services? As a result of that pre judgmental analysis we made a decision that they are good/no good, we’re indifferent toward them or better still, they are brilliant.

Consider this further when it comes to mental health, people are taught not to prejudge. Just because somebody has a challenge or an issue doesn’t necessarily mean our (judgmental) interpretation of the situation is even vaguely correct. We have not walked in their shoes. We have not been with them 24 seven for the past seven years of their lives. We do not know the rubbish that they are dealing with and we have no idea about the successes that they have in their lives.

We still judge them according to the cover of the book without looking inside. I know I am in danger of slipping into clichés here but that’s the point. When we make a pre judgement of somebody’s ability – be that good, bad or indifferent – we do not know what their state of mind is or their capability to deliver, meaning we are neglecting the other 99% of what and who they are.

The fact that somebody likes to wear trainers rather than high heels or brogues is their choice. The fact that somebody has facial hair, male or female, is their choice, the fact that they have tattoos and ink from collar to ankles is their choice. These elements have nothing to do whatsoever with their competency or ability to deliver it is just how they choose to express themselves. We need to stop prejudging people by the book cover and start focusing on getting to know people, putting the time and effort into really getting to know people properly, so that we can then get on with what really matters and work with the people where the chemistry is right.

We leave the others behind, not because we prejudge them but because we’ve spent time with them and we’ve worked out that actually my first impression may have may or may not have been correct in that instance, enabling us to then move on with a clear conscience. This means we get to work with the people that we need to work with and we give a wide berth to those that don’t fit for us and we don’t fit for them.

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