From the Thursday, January 17, 2002 The Hindu : Online edition of India's National Newspaper Friday, June 01, 2001
Someone has said that the definition of being insane is watching the same scene in a movie over and over again and expecting that this time it will have a different ending. Does that mean that most of us are crazy for wanting something new or different in our life even though we have done nothing different with the way we think, behave or see the world? To be kind to ourselves, we have to say "no, not crazy" but being a wishful dreamer, "yes, and yes again". For those who want to live an Open Life that enables you to succeed, grow and develop as a whole person and to give back -- make a difference because I was here, a critical step forward would be one that helped you to be a whole person more of the time. That is, to be seen as a whole, spirited person and not one person at work, another at home and another in the community. Put very plainly, each of us would like others to see and at least appreciate, if not love the real and whole me, then I could be that person all of the time.
An award winning Irish author, in his recent book Eternal Echoes, says that this universal human desire is one of the deepest held longings - to be accepted and loved just for being who they are - and nothing else.
So, if you were a film maker, to help others see the whole, real you, you would just rewrite the old script or create a new script, right? Wrong! One of the best ways to write or rewrite the script of My Life so others see you anew is to unscript how you see others. What?
Script by unscripting - now that's crazy. Not really, let me explain. If you unscript how you see others, it will not be long before someone says to you, “You are really a different sort of person, you see me as I really am,” or “You have really changed. I don't know how or why but it's as if I am seeing the real open you for the first time!” Now, do I have your full attention (grin)?
Unscripting is about changing how you see those you know already and those whom you see about the city or newly meet. It means not judging or rejudging a person based on your past knowledge of that person. It also means not judging or automatically categorizing the new person according to their clothing, speech, or how she or he carries him or herself.
Unscripting your views of people means dropping your automatic and reliable means of categorizing people, even if it feels a bit awkward.
You may feel awkward or uneasy because these automatic judgments are in part a survival skill born into all creatures, including humans. Being able to predict behavior and whether a situation is dangerous or not is a survival skill we all must have - unscripting does not involve becoming unsafe or foolishly risky. However, if we overextend our need for predictability and apply it simply to make life easier (on the basis of fewer decisions means less work), we not only reduce our ability to adapt (the other basic survival skill), we put ourselves behind mental walls or a mental box that not only prevents us from clearly seeing others, these walls also hide us from others' view.
Test yourself. How long does it take for you to tag or categorize someone as you watch people enter a public room or building, or walking on the street? And people thought computers were quick. I am willing to bet that each of your judgments will take no more than one or two nanoseconds. Many of your speedy tags or scripts for these people are based on whats, or what people appear to be.
As you watch people walk down the street: this one is a craftsperson (a well-kept man in a clean jumpsuit carrying a toolbox), that one is a day laborer, she is an office worker, she is a government clerk, that one is a religious pilgrim, he is... she is.... We need only consider the first person. You can only see and react to him as a craftsperson. You cannot see him as a brother, uncle, father, a village or district historian and storyteller, someone who won a foot race or scored three goals. You cannot see a kind man, a man who has read every book on music in his local library. And the important point, that he cannot see you as anything other than another "what" who only sees him as a what. So the first step is to do your best to not just see people as whats. It will certainly open up new possibilities at work and in the community. As you see and treat people as whole people, so they will see and treat you.
And the second step is really just a way of accomplishing the first. My father did his utmost to be sure that my brother and I made no judgments of people based on their looks, their speech, and their whats. He was not perfect at it himself but he was persistent with drilling it into us - and making sure that he introduced us with great interest to as a wide a variety of people as our town or travels offered.
Once, when I had made a really bad mistake in misjudging a person - and paid for it with a bruised eye and nose - I asked him if he had any good ways of not making the wrong judgment. His reply has served my brother and me well. Look at people's eyes. Only see their eyes - not how they are dressed, not the shade of their skin, not how they speak. When you look into another person's eyes, they have to see yours as well. And the first thing they notice is that you are not looking at how they are dressed, how they are standing, or what they sound like - you are looking to see the person. And then - they see you. In the same way -- as a whole person.
Copyright Ned Hamson, 2005