But how could you know?

A man described me as “thoughtful” recently after speaking to me for five minutes. I’m always surprised when people develop ideas about my character in such a short period of time. How does he know? We had not been discussing anything that would outright reveal this.

This perplexity isn’t new. I’ve also had teachers describe me as “intelligent” or “proficient” before I ever even submitted any assignments to them, but I always chalked that up to a racial bias—it’s flattering, but ultimately undesirable and isn’t really about me.

This instance was of course less insidious. The man had described me as “beautiful and thoughtful,” and though the former rather than to outward appearance could have spoken to my character as well, the latter most certainly must have spoken to character, and I’m wondering still how he’d arrived to that conclusion.

I have always been very suspicious of first impressions. I value my intuition and encourage others to trust theirs, but I’m also hyperaware of when “intuition” is in fact bias, and I rarely form words out of my first impression of others as to not lend it authenticity. This is casually fascinating to me.

2 thoughts on “But how could you know?

  1. Lilianne

    Not surprising. Some people radiate compassion, and I can imagine you’d be one of them.

    The racial bias – are you referring to the model minority myth?


  2. Shybiker

    As you surmise, most people’s statements about us are really reflections of them, not us — and bias is pervasive. I’m a quiet person and am frequently surprised/amused/annoyed by inaccurate assumptions people make about me.



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