I met a coaching colleague today at the Frederick Library. We have interacted by email but never seen each other. I was outside the building making a phone call when, unknowingly, she walked by to meet me at the inside staircase. I finished my call, went inside to the appointed place and saw someone I figured was her. We introduced ourselves. She admitted to me that she saw me in front of the building and assumed I was one of the many loitering homeless people who populate the front of Frederick’s downtown library. I was (and still am) in jeans, a sweatshirt, and crocs. She , like me, is an executive coach and makes a conscious effort to notice what she notices. She was a little embarrassed that she assessed me as homeless and I was a likewise to be called out for looking so schlubby. Fortunately we were able to have that discussion and move past first impressions to a more robust exchange.
In Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow”, he discusses how our brains often function to make decisions quickly and less often slow down to be more deliberate. He calls it system 1 and 2. System 1 is designed to make rapid assessments for survival. We take a little available data, instantly make a coherent story, and assess the threat. It happens so fast we tend to be unaware of it. And in many cases we are wrong. See the optical illusion below. You have likely seen this before. Our quick assessment feels so right. One does look longer than the other. Alas they are the same length (system 2 is more inclined to use rulers). So what did I learn? Perhaps I could dress a little better. Also to be grateful for people who can withhold judgment. Thank you Linda.