The Process Should Go Smoothly
Due to the social group and businesses I run, I meet a lot of people. Although it is probably not true I meet more people in a week than you meet in a year, I do meet more people in a month than most people meet in a year. What I’ve learned is that the process should go smoothly. To the extent it doesn’t, there is a very high probability (greater than 90 percent) that your interaction with your new acquaintance will be unsatisfactory
The fact is that most of the people in the world are not people you want to meet or interact with. They have qualities that make them undesirable as social acquaintances, friends, business associates, lovers. Anyone who has their act reasonably together has figured out a way to live their life so they are somewhat sheltered from the riffraff. Whenever one branches beyond one current circle of acquaintances — by going to a party, attending a business networking event, joining a club, signing up for an online dating service, going on a blind date — you run a reasonable risk of meeting someone who will disappoint you in some way — they are rude, they are a jerk, they are constantly late, whatever.
I have realized that in the past I have given people too much slack. In my first encounter with them, they act inappropriately (by my standards). So I give them a second chance and sometimes a third. In almost all cases, this was a mistake. Instead, I should have taken their bad behavior as the tip of the iceberg, that they are revealing a small part of a much larger set of characteristics that I am going to find undesirable. Human behavior tends to repeat itself, people reveal more about themselves than they realize. What you see is often what you will get.
I have found this to be truer for negative characteristics than for positive characterizes. If someone is initially a jerk, the odds they are in fact not a jerk are low, much less than 10 percent. (Not zero, however, which is why this is a tough judgment call.) If someone initially makes a very favorable impression, the odds are obviously higher than they are a good person, but the odds are not in excess of 90 percent. So to be more mathematical, let’s assume it is 50 percent for the first positive encounter, then an additional 40 percent for the second. Thus, if your first two interactions are positive, then the odds of them not being a good person would be (1 – 0.5 = 0.5) * (1 – 0.6 = 0.4), or 20 percent, and the odds of their being a good person are thus 80 percent. Not perfect odds, but pretty good odds.
So basically, trust what you see. Look at what they do much more than listen to what they say. Yes, there are some exceptions. Some bad things happen to someone for whom that is not normally the case — parents do die, people do get into car crashes, people do lose their jobs and go into a funk. So you have to use your judgment.
Read James’ essay, What is the Most Appropriate Form of Communication?.
Cite as “The Process Should Go Smoothly??? by James Mitchell. May 5, 2009, version 1.0. www.jmitchell.me/essays/process-go-smoothly.