I’ve struggled with this notion for sometime. I know people and have people around me who do this most of the time. Heck, there are times when I fall into the trap of doing the same. I do not want to be the same. I want to improve my thinking. Why? Because I have been a victim of misunderstanding. I have also been misunderstood. No one likes that. It is not optimal.
What does it mean?
Whenever we look at someone our mind makes up its own mind. Yes, that sounded funny but that’s what happens. At least, loosely speaking. We have largely two sections inside our brain. The first one, evolved through the ages yet contains remnants of the animal brain. It is quick to get excited and quick to draw conclusions. There are several examples of this, some familiar, others not. There is a predator in the bush. One in hand is also better than two in the bush. My friend’s enemy is my enemy. I see the lightening, don’t understand it, hence, God. The second section within the brain, which is more careful, slow and appreciates tedious calculations. Yes, indeed it does, despite the popular notion of slow is easy, easy is good. Turning the examples above on their head… The predator in the bush can be my meal and perhaps a delicious one if I can subdue it. Do I have any tools handy? How do I invent tools? Oh, physics and math! The enemy of my friend can push my friend to do better things in life because no-one wants to suffer and hard work needs motivation. Maybe my friend’s enemy can motivate him to do better. Hence, social psychology. Indeed, the second brain is scheming, manipulation, understanding yet slow to process outcomes.
So when we look at someone, something or are thrown into a situation, our animal mind (the cerebellum) already has cast its judgment. We arrive at a conclusion and are more confident than not. This is usually the case if you don’t flight the immediate impulse to draw conclusions. The more (sic) evolved part of our brain (the cerebrum) has yet to even evaluate the situation. The more time we spend in the situation, with the person, engaged with something, the more complicated the situation begins to look. We are conscious creatures but there is more evaluation taking place subconsciously than current science has managed to record.
Alternatives and a semi-conclusion
The best way to think about things is mechanically. Time-box everything. Even a thought process to think about things. Time-box it. You have to plan a trip half way around the world? Time-box it. The plan to make the plan? Time-box it. Anything that needs thought and action needs to be time boxed. That will more times than not lead thought to forced into a structure. So when you are in an unfamiliar situation or facing an unfamiliar audience the best way to evaluate it is to time box the thought process to evaluate the situation. More than restricting the time to evaluate the situation this will force you to use a framework to evaluate the situation. Ironically, the choice of the structure and framework will take time. One needs to lend their mind to reading about reading, writing, understanding culture, looking for results, using goals and objectives. This should be guidance to an end goal. Knowing about things helps to avoid being blindsided by unfamiliar situations and people. Blindsided by people, occurrences, science, and sometimes facts that have already discovered among other things. Awareness about things helps build good frameworks. Awareness comes from reading about things and sometimes being in the situation. Unfortunately the latter which is sometimes called experience needs failure for things to be understood entirely.
More about this in another blog post. Despite a fantastic dream today that made me think about things and a bit emotional and when I woke up I decided two things. One, that this post will never be finished and two I should go out for a long run like old times. So I decided to time-box the drafting of this post and that now is just as good a time to finish it up and post it. At the end I just have one thing to say. Read Mental Models by Shane Parrish and listen to The Knowledge Project. Don’t judge the book and the podcast by either of their covers. In all honesty I have listened to him in a while. But that wasn’t always the case. I did, very frequently in the past. Alright that’s all for now. Mental models. Don’t forget.