When the Veil Drops
I had a high school math teacher who I don't think liked me back then. He had a short temper with me a few times, and it felt like an overreaction. Looking back on it now, I can see that he was likely responding to who he thought I was, not who I really was. Most of us have had that experience, where what we're actually saying isn't being heard because of the filter someone has for us. It happens between teachers too.
When I get in front of a class at the start of the semester, there are certain looks that I'll sometimes get from kids - seeming looks of judgment, or superiority, or something - and I'll notice a veil drop between me and them, a translucent wall. The veil is a sort of filter. How the kid looks, how the kid talks, will get bent by the filter, blurred in such a way that the kid continues to look and sound how I would expect them to. A self-reinforcing system, courtesy of confirmation bias.
When the veil drops, we're not seeing others as they really are.
As humans, we all do this (there are evolutionary reasons for these cognitive biases). There are two mechanisms at work. One is the mechanism of keeping myself safe. The wall acts as a self-reinforcing filter, and it constantly reminds me to avoid being too vulnerable with this kid (or colleague or stranger), because it could be dangerous.
The second mechanism is the shortcut mechanism. We create mental shortcuts: we categorize people and places and things in order to be a little lazy. It would be exhausting to see everything as it is all the time, seeing each thing newly and freshly. The shortcut mechanism reduces brain processing and allows us to conserve calories.
What are the impact of these filters on you?
I suspect that neither of the justifications above are worth that impact. So, how do we get rid of the filter so that we can see the person who's actually there?
Thanks for joining me on this exploration/reflection! If you'd like to receive blog updates via email, be sure to subscribe here.