It’s the same with people, too.

Pastor Freed used this quote in his post to his Jack’s Winning Words blog today – “When you look at a strange animal, that animal also thinks that a strange animal is looking at it.”  (Mehmet Murat ildan)

Did you ever wonder at the zoo what all of the animals that you walked around and looked at thought of you? Some may have seen you as potential prey and a tasty meal, which is frightening, but the majority of the animals that you encountered probably were either curious about you or a little frightened by you being there.

There is a similar experience on both sides of any encounter with other human beings. Most of us probably immediately notice any differences between them and us – maybe a different skin color or hair style and color, or maybe the way that they dress. If they speak to us, we note any differences in speech, such as accents. We are at the same time evaluating similarities and trying to find common ground between us; that is, if we are not so fixated upon the differences.

It is important to make an effort to not let immediate impressions dictate how we react upon meeting someone and to take control of our own appearance and mannerisms. Most people are not aware that their “at rest” mien (the face that you are wearing when you are not aware that you are wearing a face) can be very intimidating. It takes a conscious effort to smile and most of us don’t walk around making that effort. The result is usually an at rest face that may look angry or sad or anything but happy and inviting. Sometimes their reaction to your appearance will put them into a guarded mode, which makes it even harder to interact well enough to really get to know them.

So, what is one to do? You can start by adopting the old “innocent until proven otherwise” saw and assume that everyone that you encounter will be someone that you’d really like to get to know better. Some may not prove to be people that you’d want to be BFF’s with; but, you’ll still be better off for having made the effort to “see” them beyond your initial impressions. Unlike at the zoo, there is no little information placard for you to read to learn more about the person that you’ve just met. Taking the time to talk with them is the only way to learn more about them. And remember to smile.

Encountering people who are significantly different from you and your normal circle of friends should be seen as an exciting opportunity and not as a threat. It is through exploring and understanding different points of view and different sources of knowledge that we grow as human beings. You may realize that you’ve never event thought of some things the way that a different person sees them and that may change your perspective, or at least broaden it.

As you wander through this “zoo” that we all live in, take the time and make the effort to really understand those strange other people that you encounter, realizing that they, too, are trying to figure out the strange person in front of them. And remember to smile, you don’t want to scare the strangers off before they’ve even met you.

Hi, how are you?

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