I was talking to my wife the other day and we were discussing the topic of misconceptions, and how easy it is to misunderstand a situation or someone, or to judge them instantly without any thought for other alternatives. We have all judged someone at one time or another and first impressions are something we take note of on a daily basis.
You could be walking down the street and a guy could be heading towards you looking rather mean and angry. So what do we do? We walk to the other side of the road, because we assume he could be dangerous and looking to mug someone. However, this man may have just had a bad day at work in isn’t feeling too good. He might be a policeman, or work in a bank for all we know. Or he could of course be a drug dealer. Either way, we don’t take the chance, so we walk on the other side of the road.
You could say it’s a kind of inner safety mechanism to avoid any potential danger. And although we’ve judged this person to possibly be a mugger, whether or not he is doesn’t matter. You still might as well walk on the other side of the road as you are guaranteed to be a little safer. So our first impression and judgement of someone can be extremely important as it may keep us safe and out of danger. But what about daily interactions, and straight forward meetings and conversations. Is it just as important?
For example, you may be conducting a job interview and the person that walks in looks quite dishevelled and untidy in their appearance, and they don’t really look like they’ve made the effort. So your first impression is to assume that they may be a disorganised untidy person at work – and in most cases you will probably be correct. So even though they gave an amazing interview, you may decide not to hire them because of their untidy appearance. Some people may argue that although this person looks untidy that they still may be able to do an exceptional job. But as an employer are you likely to take that chance?
And this brings me to my musical misconception…
I remember when I was about 14 and I had decided to take music as one of my GCSE’s. I had been playing the piano on and off for about 5 years, and I was a fairly decent player at the time for my age. We had our own music block, and the building stood alone in the middle of the school. It was always out of bounds unless you were a teacher, taking a music class, or studying music for GCSE. The school obviously didn’t allow anyone else to go in as there were a lot of expensive musical instruments and equipment that could get broken, so they had to be very strict with who entered. So I’d only ever really been in there when we had our music lessons, and not out of choice.
Although I could play the piano, my main passion in life was sports, and all I ever did during lunch break was play tennis or football, come rain or come shine. Hardly any of my friends knew I could play the piano either, because I never really spoke about it in case anyone made fun of me – which they would have knowing my group of friends. I didn’t hang around with really bad people, but they certainly weren’t good either! I was a real joker at school, and was always going out of my way to make people laugh. So I inevitably attracted the wrong crowd, and we didn’t get a lot of school work done.
Now that I’d decided to take music for GCSE, I was a fully legal member of the music department and could come and go out of this sacred building as and when I pleased. However, I thought it would be funny one day to take advantage of this special privilege and I asked a couple of my mates to follow me to the music block. They didn’t realise that I was studying music and could play the piano, and I thought it would be hilarious to waltz (no joke intended) in there and jump onto the piano and play.
As luck would have it for this practical joke, there were quite a few people in there that I categorised at the time as ‘class swots’, and people I really didn’t get a long with, and probably made fun of far too many times. So this was my perfect opportunity with my mates giggling and peering through the window. I walked right past everyone and headed straight for the piano. Everyone knew me and they all went quiet and watched me wander through the classroom. About halfway through my journey a few people started to tell me to get out, and remind me that I shouldn’t be in there. They didn’t know that I was now allowed in there, and they saw me and assumed I was up to no good.
I managed to make it to the piano relatively unscathed, apart from some verbal abuse. I then lifted the lid and started to hit the keys in no particular order, to make it look like I couldn’t play. And just as I was about to be rugby tackled by a class swot, I started to play properly. I can’t remember exactly what I played at the time, but it was enough for them to step away and look very surprised. And so were my friends at the window, as they could hear me play also. They left me alone from that day on, and didn’t verbally object to me entering the building. But I still got a few funny looks from them, as nothing had changed. I was still the class joker, but who could also play the piano.
There isn’t much of a moral to this story really. You could say that they shouldn’t have judged me and assumed I wasn’t bright enough to play the piano, but in all fairness it was my own reputation that caused it. On any other given day I probably would have been up to no good, so they were doing the right thing by contemplating throwing me out. However, looking back I do remember this group of people giving off an attitude of ‘I’m better than you because I can play an instrument, and I’m part of the music block’. So maybe they deserved it for judging me, as much as I judged them…?