Monday, February 11, 2019

Get To Know People Through Answers, Not Assumptions

People are prone to misunderstand each other.

And often enough, it's due to our mistake of not asking the right questions, and not getting enough information to form a complete picture of someone.

Yes, we can shift the blame on social media - for taxing our attention span, extending our circle of acquaintances faster than we can properly get to know them, and facilitating the spread of gossips far and wide.

But ultimately, the fault lies in ourselves. We've lost touch with the basic human skill of getting to know someone, truly and deeply.

How we truly feel about our classmates and colleagues
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How do you get to know someone? That's easy. You ask them questions about their background.

It's not possible to frame a picture perfect of someone, especially early on. But you shouldn't settle with an inaccurate portrayal either.

Misunderstanding arises when we only focus on making assumptions, not getting answers. We're too excited firing away a template questionnaire, and not pausing enough in between each question to ask deeper, follow-up questions.

If you stop digging deeper after getting an answer, two things happen:

First, the answer is incomplete. You don't fully understand the rationale, the thinking, the philosophy behind the answer.

Second - and more worryingly - you are lazily filling in the gaps with your own preconceptions. You resort to stereotyping. You are judging. You make assumptions.

Everything you think you know about me is wrong.
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I'm easily misunderstood.

"Oh, you're a lawyer, you must enjoy talking a lot!" Not really, I'm more of an introvert.

"Oh, you're a lawyer, you must be quite liberal!" Not really, I'm more of a positivist.

"Oh, you're a lawyer, who's your favourite character in 'Suits'?" None. I have never watched the show, nor do I ever plan to.

Such questions don't leave me frustrated and annoyed, but fascinated and amused. Once they know I'm a lawyer, people tend to make all kinds of assumptions of me. And they usually get me wrong.

If you truly wish to get to know me, you should always dig deeper, and ask questions like:

"Why did you decide to study law? To defend justice and the rule of law... Nah, just kidding, I didn't even know what those terms meant back in high school....

"What's a positivist?" It's the opposite of naturalism, as Jeremy Bentham sums it up best: "Hunger is not bread, want is not supply".

"Which lawyer inspires you, real or fictional? None, I am inspired by visionaries, like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Peter Thiel (ex-lawyer), who look towards the future, as opposed to lawyers who are trained to look into the past.

That's just scratching the surface. In time, you'll realise that I'm not really a typical 'lawyer'. Call me a 'fake' lawyer. Whatever.

And that's only because you presume that since I'm a lawyer, I must act and think like a lawyer. But why should I? Being a lawyer doesn't define who I am.

Definitely a catchier slogan than 'Rule of Law' and 'Constitution is Supreme'
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Forget about me being a 'lawyer'. Seriously, you can know much more about me by asking general questions revolving everyday topics, like sports, music and movies.

"Which football team do you support, and why?" None. I used to, but stopped because being a die-hard fan is a waste of time and emotional investment.

"What song are you spamming on your playlist right now?" Thunderclouds by LSD (Labrinth, Sia and Diplo). So unique in every aspect: title, vocals, lyrics, composition, and music video.

"Who's your favourite Star Wars character, and why?" Obi-wan Kenobi. Service above self. Stoic. Doesn't allow emotions interfere with principles. Plus a dry sense of humour. 

See? That's so much you can learn about my personality and beliefs, just by asking pretty simple everyday questions.

'Failure' is my middle name too
* * *

Don't assume too much about people without enough information.

Always dig deeper. Always seek for more answers.

So that you avoid having misconceptions about people.

And to fully know them for who they truly are.

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