I’ve been to Salt Lake City many times and I thought I had it figured it out. Clean, proper, big blocks, very organized, conservative, not much “outside of the box” thinking, in terms of lifestyle or diversity. I assumed that this was the persona of the city. This morning I learned differently as I walked the canals of Taylorsville, a close-in suburb of SLC.
The dog behaved well as Saskia and I followed the path alongside the canals, where I was surprised and delighted to see young families with lush vegetable gardens, seniors proudly watering their green grass, Latino urban farmers cultivating small plots of land, and chickens, cows, and horses doing their thing. A little messy, but it was rough and real. And I turned to my friend, and with an apology in my voice stated, “I can’t believe this is Salt Lake City.” I had assumed, based on my somewhat limited experience and exposure to downtown SLC , that I could categorize the city.
I found a whole new city, that broke my stereotypes. And I thought about how often we make assumptions and judgements based on first impressions. We do it with people and places. It often occurs within the workplace. We react without pausing to get the whole picture. We frame things within our own perspective without exploring deeper, as I did when I walked the canals of this city..
With that in mind, here are three tips to help banish the assumptions that we make so readily:
1. Listen, listen some more, observe and pause before jumping to a conclusion
2. Ask questions before making judgments, and take time to process things
3. Check your own values at the door, and be open to different perspectives. In sum, see things through another pair of glasses.
So a couple of challenges for you today:
1. Look deeper and explore a place you thought you knew by looking at it with fresh eyes.
2. Give that person you think you know, another chance without assuming you know them or how they are going to behave.