Don’t be Too Quick to Judge

by Krishna on March 14, 2009

Sometimes, people can be too clever by half. When it comes to knowledge of understanding other people, everybody thinks they are an expert. They think they can understand the motivations of others based on one or two interactions when, in fact, they are drawing upon stereotypes and are making wrongful assumptions. People who are quick to form impressions of others set themselves up for failure, especially those who are disposed to mistrust of others.

A jaundiced and cynical view of the world pushes away people who want to help. It attracts people who want to feed the venom of hatred and bitterness. It keeps problems festering and avoids dealing with issues before they become serious. It prevents one from taking advantage of opportunities. And above all, it destroys something human in us, the ability to empathize with others.

I am reminded of “Good Will Hunting” where the Matt Damon character, Will, makes an infuriating remark about Sean Maguire (played by Robin Williams), a therapist trying to help him, after seeing a picture of Sean’s. As reply, in one of the most moving movie speeches ever, Robin Williams explains why Will is wrong to base his judgment on one single observation of his life.

Sean: So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that.

If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy.

You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help.

I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you.

You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you… I don’t see an intelligent, confident man… I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you’re a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my […] life apart.

You’re an orphan right? [Will nods] You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally… I don’t give a shit about all that, because you know what, I can’t learn anything from you, I can’t read in some […] book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t want to do that do you sport? You’re terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.

I wonder how many times we have labeled, condemned or written off someone because of one incident, one misunderstanding, one assumption. That is one thing which has to change if we are to make our relationships (business and personal) work.

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