Even if your surname isn’t Clinton or Trump (sorry, Drumpf) you will have experienced how monumentally hard it can be to shift your perceptions of a situation, a group, an issue.
Sometimes you’ll be right, of course. Not always.
‘Pride and Prejudice’ was originally to be titled ‘First Impressions’.
There were some significant goings–on in the Austen household at the time of its publication. The brothers launched a magazine, stating publicly that they wanted their readers to think of them favourably at launch: they were sure that first impressions were impossible to shift.
Jane disagreed. In Pride and Prejudice, first impressions are shifted. Profoundly.
I’m on her side. I’ve seen it happen, and facilitated its happening. But I am beginning to suspect, based on working with groups and teams in different workplace cultures, that shifting perceptions, those first impressions, is getting harder.
A brusque email, reduced contact, absence of body language cues in quite serious online debates and decision making – they are all compounding the issue.
What’s the answer?
I can do no better than repeat the advice given by Adam Phillips, the teasing psychoanalyst and writer, at the close of an easy-ride interview last week.
At the end of the interview he’s asked how he tries to avoid becoming trapped in small shared-prejudice groups, to keep his mind ‘open’.
He gives his antidote.
‘Two things: kindness and conversation’.