We all know that appearances can be deceiving but we don’t always remember it.
I sat down at a brewpub to sample some craft beer. Several seats down was a huge individual with a Mohawk and long beard. My initial thought was that he might be a biker. He was the kind of person you’d quietly tell your kids not to stare at to avoid any touchy situations.
I asked the bartender for a sample of beer that wasn’t available in a taster. I’d have to buy a full pint to try it. I ordered something else.
A few minutes later the large patron down from me ordered the beer I wanted to taste. When it arrived he slid it my way and said, “Would you like to taste it?”
I was a bit taken back but instantly appreciative of the gesture. I tried the beer and that started a conversation that lasted for 45 minutes. My new friend turned out to be a beer connoisseur and a most interesting and delightful person. His appearance belied his soft-spoken and kind personality.
It was for me a dramatic reminder of the assumptions and judgments we make. Getting through life safely requires discernment based on general experience. While mostly a good thing, there are times when it prevents us from developing relationships and discovering insights about others.
As leaders we need to judge people and assess situations to make good decisions. At the same time we’re better served to look again at the people we meet and work with and dig a little deeper so that we can judge wisely.
Appearances can indeed deceive. Rather than assuming the worst–or even the typical–dig a little deeper to understand the people you encounter every day.