Imagine the scenario: You’re a middle aged woman, you’ve had numerous disappointments in your life – mostly they’ve revolved around men. To you, men are unpleasant beings, that have been a constant disappointment to you all your life.
Your father wasn’t much of a man; he mistreated your mother. To add to this, all you’ve experienced, throughout the whole of your life, is more of the same. You’re friends think you’ve become neurotic and bitter; they see how your relationships have turned you into someone becoming increasingly cantankerous and defensive.
To earn your salt you manage a bookshop. It’s independent, quite new in the high street, and space on your shelves is at a premium. You’re at home here; this is your domain and you feel in charge. Whilst stood behind the counter, nothing and no one, can touch you.
Now, one quiet afternoon, a man walks in, holding a book. He seems genial enough, he smiles and introduces himself. You’re standing behind the counter with your young female assistant, who is also greeted in the same way, the man asks:
“Are you an independent bookshop?”
Your assistant takes up the initiative and answers: “Oh yes, in fact we’re one of three.”
“Oh okay, only I called in today to ask if you sell self-published books? – On a sale or return basis that is, I offer 40% commission” Confirms the man.
“Well we do, however the owner has told us not to take any self-published books until after Christmas” states your assistant.
During this exchange you’re eyeing up this strange visitor trying to work him out; you’re curiosity is getting the better of you, and your beginning to wonder what kind of book he’s selling.
Once again your assistant takes up the initiative: “You could always leave a copy and I could show it the owner.” she says.
“Yeah sure, that would be lovely, I could call back in a week or so. The contact details in the appendix are current” On this, the man hands you his book.
You look at it and notice the names on the cover, you state: “So you’re Philip are you?”
Yes that’s right, the book’s self help, all about relationships, how to get the most from them, that kind of thing, take a look, see what you think. It’s a lost leader really as my long term intention is to run workshops; Partnership Workshops” asserts the man.
You have of course by now taken a dislike to this man, and so just before he leaves, having now thanked you for your time, you say: “we’ll leave it for now.” A parting shot to the back of his head. A ‘fuck you’ to the man who knows, he knows nothing.
We can only wonder if either of these people have chosen to take a look at Philips work. I suspect the younger of them has, or soon will, as she sounded much more genial and open. Having said this, it is wise to remember, all visitors to the store in question are just as likely to transfer negative beliefs and prejudice onto the shop assistants, as they are likely to transfer them onto the customers. On balance though, it is fair to say we humans are often able to pick up on unconscious communication – simply through a person’s attitude – as to whether someone has taken to us or not.
“It’s worth remembering that during every exchange with another human being, this is exactly what we all do, all of the time: make assumptions. Very few people actually know anything about the friend who relayed this story to me.”
In fact, when it comes down to it, very few people take any real interest in others and know much about them at all. We’re often locked into our own script simply waiting for our cue to begin talking about ourselves. If we do take the time to truly listen, to the stories of others, (I know only a few who do this) we might learn some interesting things. A book for example, may well be the result of a journey through a life filled with pleasure and pain; joy and sadness.
“It never ceases to surprise how our intentions may be kind and loving and yet construed as malicious, devious or scheming. How wrong we can be.”
On the one hand we have a bitter middle aged lady, who has a history of abusive, broken relationships; she’s unlikely to offer any kindness to the author of a self-help book: A book about the very thing that has caused her so much pain. She might have been thinking: How dare this man claim to know my pain. And she would think this because she knows nothing of his. She is blind to the pain of others.
And then on the other hand, we have the young assistant – who may even have a close affinity with her work colleague – yet still be open to change. She has youth on her side; hence the warmer attitude.
“The long and the short of it is, when meeting someone new, we must work hard to stop the assumptions from forming in our minds.”
As such, if you should ever meet a strange man in a bookshop – or workshop for that matter – who then hands you a book, be cautious not to simply dismiss it as another self-published vanity book. One of its pages may offer you a small, yet beautiful insight, into how to make the best of something important: Your life.
You’ll never know until you look.