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Your aunt invites you over for dinner. You find yourself disagreeing with one of
her other guests over everything from politics to which wine would work best with
your lamb dinner. To your surprise, the following week you receive a call from your
aunt with the news that this same guest would like to set you up with her “very
eligible” son. Your knee jerk reaction is to say no. “Honestly” you think, “how
could a woman who is so totally opposite from me in so many ways possibly have a
son that I could relate to”. Based on this thought you refuse to meet the young
man in question…………………
One might say that you are guilty of PREJUDGMENT simply because you automatically
interpreted details about this woman’s son based on your experience and perception
of his mother, never having met him or having heard anything about him at all.
To some extent we all go through life prejudging others, and some times our preconceptions
may even turn out to be right. In general, though, the limited information that
we rely on can and usually does lead us to narrow our choices and restrict our opportunities.
COMMON TRAPS OF PREJUDGMENT:
We tend to make assumptions based on our own preconceived experiences and knowledge
base. For example, your date tells you that she hasn’t dated much since her divorce.
In her mind, not dating much might mean that you are the fourth man she has gone
out with. You, on the other hand, understand that to mean that you are the first
man she has gone out with since her divorce. Since you have been advised to stay
clear of women on the rebound, you decide not to ask her out for a second date,
despite the fact that she has many wonderful qualities. You may fear that if you
are the first new man in her life, the relationship is doomed from the start. Take
the time to clarify what you are hearing, so that your assumptions do not turn into
“Did you say that he/she went to _______ school? All girls/boys from that school
are _________ (too black hat, too modern, snooty, etc.). I couldn’t possibly go
out with him/her.” When dating, some of the criteria that we are inclined to stereotype
by are schools, shuls, community, friends, job, and looks. For many, stereotypes
are so set in stone that even when meeting people who defy these stereotypes, they
don’t allow themselves to be “confused by the facts”.
(3) SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY:
If you believe your date will treat you in a kind and generous way, you may communicate
this belief to them in subtle ways and ultimately find yourself being treated as
expected. Conversely, if you expect to be treated poorly on a date, your subtle
cues, i.e. avoiding eye contact, lack of smiling, rigid body language, will communicate
negativity, which will be responded to in kind.
(4) DISTORTIONS AND DELUSIONS:
You are on a first date and you sense something familiar about your date that may
put you at ease and make you very comfortable. It may be something about their looks,
accent, mannerism or smile. By the same token, something about them may make you
uncomfortable, uneasy. In both cases there is something, positive or negative, that
most likely reminds you of someone in your own life, past or present. When you have
such a strong sense of like or dislike on a first date, proceed with caution. Be
aware that, in all probability, your assumption about your date is not about him/her
but about your association to someone else. Continuing with your notion of who this
person is, when it is not about them at all, can lead to disappointment and heartbreak.
(5) PERPETUATING FALSE IMPRESSIONS:
Consider this scenario: After dating for five months, you have recently gotten engaged.
Your fiancée suggests going to a museum. Although you have gone to museums with
him in the past, you don’t really like them, so you tell your fiancée that you would
rather not go. He is surprised and disappointed, wondering what has changed. He
may then start worrying about what other surprises are in store for him and whether
he really knows this woman he is engaged to. If you have creating a false image
in an attempt to please and impress you fiancée, then in all likelihood, he does
It is natural to be on your best behavior on a first date. You want to make a good
impression and you want to be liked. Yet, misleading first impressions can lead
to disillusionment and disappointment later on. So how do you get past the illusion
and get to know the real person? If you know that you would like to see this person
again, it is helpful to check out your impressions. Let the other person know that
you would like to get to know them better, that you are interested in who they really
are, their likes and dislikes. Share your perception of your date with him/her and
allow them to clarify if they do not agree. The fiancée in the above scenario may
never have asked her if she liked going to museums; he just assumed so. Meanwhile,
she may have felt that he would think less of her if she admitted to not enjoying
As it happens, the mother in the opening example had a history of disagreeing with
her son in much the same way that she found herself disagreeing with this young
woman, which is why she thought they would make a good match. Unfortunately, by
ASSUMING that the son was like his mother and therefore not a good match, she missed
out on a possible opportunity.
Expectations, assumptions, stereotyping, self-fulfilling prophesies, distortions
and perpetuating false impressions are some of the ways of PREJUDGING that may get
in the way of meeting and being open to getting to know your potential mate.
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