While out dancing last night, I had an interesting exchange with a dance partner. I confessed to him that I’m not very good at couples dancing. He assured me that I am a great dancer as he had seen me line dancing earlier. So I again told him that while I’m good at line dancing, I’m not as adept at couples dancing — I just hadn’t learned it or practiced it enough. Thinking that was the end of the discussion…I focused on dancing.
Until the gentleman said to me, “So you’re divorced, independent, the woman in charge of the house, mother of several kids, and used to doing things your way — that’s why you have trouble following a man’s lead.” He didn’t ask this, but instead stated it with firm assurance. This surprised me and caught me off-guard. Now he had labeled me, quite definitively (and quite incorrectly).
So with untrue labels placed upon me, I was then in a position of having to either let him believe false things about me or attempt to undo his assessment and judgment. As you can sense, from just this very brief interchange the communication and potential for connection was already hampered. How could he possibly get to know me when he had already neatly packaged me up and delivered his assessment with a nice neat bow on top?
And this made me wonder: how many times do we do this to others? When we meet someone and we hear a brief bit about them, what assumptions are we drawing (perhaps without even realizing we’re doing it)…and what are we missing in the process?
This is quite common in fact. When couples begin dating, it is common for them to learn a bit about one another and then to “fill in the gaps” with their own projections and hopes. It is only after some time of really getting to know one another, that they begin to realize their “dream partner” isn’t who they thought s/he is. Not because the partner changed, but because inaccurate labels were given early on.
I encourage us to consciously remain open to learn about another, allowing their true self to emerge and become apparent, rather than trying to “complete the picture” prematurely. We are complex and multi-faceted beings, and there is no possible way to know someone in just a few minutes, days or even weeks. Allow time for each of you to reveal your true selves, and watch yourself for any tendency or habit of “filling in the blanks” about another.
By retraining ourselves in this way, we may avoid a lot of misunderstandings, miscommunications, and hurt feelings. After all, no one can be summed up by a nice neat label!