I've recently started a new job at a shared workspace in downtown Denver. A lot of start-ups collaborate there, bring in their adorable dogs, and have meetings while sitting on couches from Ikea. I however, am not a part of a design firm, or hip new software company. I work part time making sandwiches and coffee drinks at the on-site cafe.
I actually kind of love it! The people I work with are great, and so easygoing. The people I meet and serve every day are around my age, and always up for some chit-chat before returning to their desks. I love that I can commute by bike (that makes me SO happy), and the stress of the job is pretty low. Surprisingly my pay is comparable to what I made at my last corporate job, and although it's less hours I've already made some contacts networking for freelance jobs with some of our customers. I also have found that I truly enjoy making pretty sandwiches and salads for people!
I have also noticed that there are a number of attractive young men that work in this office building. They're all very stylish, well-spoken, smart, and interesting. And yet, I wonder:
Now that I'm the person that serves them, do they see me differently?
Maybe in an office setting or at a popular post-work happy hour spot, they would look at me as an equal. They'd see that I'm dressed in a similar fashion, and that I'm bright and interesting too. But their first impression of me is while I'm waiting on them, and doing a job that could be considered more low class. Their initial reaction could be to think that I'm uneducated, or that there's something wrong with me for not being able to get a "better" job than service industry. They may think that I've been fired a lot. They may think that I can't take care of myself. If these guys got to know me, they'd see that I made this choice on purpose, and that I'm more happy now than I've been in a long time.
Obviously I'm making judgments about them judging me, and I know that. But it's not TOO far of a stretch to believe that we place judgement on people based on their jobs.
A funny thing happened the other day, just as I was thinking about all of this. I went to drop off some dishes to the dishwasher that works for us, and when I was handing him the plates I realized he was very attractive. I immediately thought: But he's just a dishwasher!
I couldn't believe it!! I was making the same judgement about HIM that I thought the guys at the office building were making about ME. It was an automatic reaction, and it saddened me. For all I know, he could have been a former CEO that realized he hated the stress, loved doing a mindless job where he could rock out to music and forget about when he got home. He could be washing dishes to pay his way through school. He could be doing it simply because it pays the bills, and he finds his passions elsewhere. He could also be lazy or unmotivated - of course it swings both ways. Whatever the reason, I should not have judged him.
The truth is, it's hard to not judge someone when you first meet them.
This video is more about judging a woman for her looks, but it is a similar concept. I just love the clip!
We all judge. It's practically impossible not to. For some reason, we've been hard-wired to start forming opinions about people the moment we see them. I'm sure it was initially for survival reasons, but times have changed. Social circumstances are different than they used to be. People are working different kinds of jobs, and have the ability to choose their careers and the paths they take in their lives. It's a different world.
I have always disliked that question you get soon after meeting someone: "What do you do?" - which usually translates to: "So what do you do for money?" I've recently changed it to asking: "What makes you happy?" or "What do you do in your free time?" or if I do ask "What do you do for work?" I immediately ask "Does it make you happy?" or "Do you like what you do?" It may put them on the spot, but it makes for some interesting conversation. It also opens the door for them to talk about their true passions in life, or maybe even question themselves.
This also helps clear away any initial judgments we may have made about each other, and opens up the opportunity to truly get to know another person.
I'm going to work harder to get to know people first, and be aware of judgments when they sneak up. I want to talk to people, and understand why they do what they do, and who they really are. Another lesson learned!