[This post is part of a series on â€œMental models and beliefs: an exercise to identify yours.â€ If you donâ€™t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where youâ€™ll get more value than reading just this post.]
Doesn’t it bother you when someone treats you like a preconceived notion instead of the person you are? Doesn’t it feel dehumanizing?
Today’s belief came from an experience I had riding a bike as a kid and helps me visualize what happens and resolve the problem. I was riding near some trolley tracks. When I crossed them at a slight angle my front wheel fell into the track, making it impossible to steer. The bike and I fell down.
If I had crossed the track at a wide angle, closer to ninety degrees, my wheel wouldn’t have risked falling in and getting stuck. If I had ridden parallel or far away instead of crossing, my wheel also then wouldn’t have fallen in.
The wheel only falls in and gets stuck if you go at a slight angle.
Like the wheel falling into the rut of a nearly parallel track it crosses, I believe people’s thoughts about others fall into ruts of similar ideas they cross. If a wheel is in danger of falling into a rut, almost no force on the handlebars can prevent it from falling in. The deeper the rut, the harder to get out. Blaming the rut won’t change anything.
Likewise, if something about you resembles someone’s preconceived notion about people they think you’re like, almost no amount of trying to prevent being seen that way can stop it. The deeper their preconceived-notion rut, the harder to get out. Blaming them for it won’t change anything.
A model to tolerate when people pre-judge me: People have preconceived notions and if you resemble one, they’ll likely see you that way.
Do I like when this happens? No more than I like falling off my bike. But I accept it happens. Getting angry doesn’t help. What helps? Awareness of preconceived ruts lets you tell people you don’t belong in one can help. So does stopping when you realize what happened and straightening things out, preferably before you fall.
I do my best to be aware of other people’s ruts.
If I’m near a rut, I try to stay away from it or cross at a right angle — that is, to clarify that I’m not what they might think I am.
If I fall in, I try to stop and get back out — that is, pause our interaction, clarify what they think of me, clarify what they got right and wrong, and then get back to our other business.
When I use this belief
I use this belief when I realize I might fit into someone else’s preconceived notions.
What this belief replaces
This belief replaces getting angry or frustrated at someone doing something nearly everyone does with accepting it and helping them learn something.
Where this belief leads
This belief leads to more non-judgmental acceptance of others.
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