Do you ever try to imagine the people on the other side of the screen? When you read a piece of writing or listen to a song, do you picture its creator? Can you imagine what they’re like? Can you build out their personality?
This guesswork is more common than I thought. Because when my online connections and fans meet me, they’re usually surprised. What they see doesn’t compare to the version of me they had in their head. For starters, I look funny. I’m not a big guy, but I occupy a lot of space. My shoulders are pretty wide for my height. I’m shaped like a fat Dorito. As a result, a first read I get a lot is “odd”. I don’t really blend in.
Throw in a gold chain, Rolex, and mohawk, and you’ve got one weird guy. Not necessarily the guy most people would connect to my writing. So to readers of my work, the contrast might be interesting. To strangers disconnected from my content, however, it’s a different story.
I’m constantly being misread because of the way I look. Most strangers I meet in real life think I’m rude. Or arrogant. Or obnoxious. In reality, all those traits are actually accurate. But without context, they work against me. After all, they only make sense in the context of my specific story.
Hence it doesn’t take much for me to start a fight. People get triggered by my piercing remarks or aggressive tone, which results in plenty of conflict. And it’s a downward spiral from there, because conflict is like a cozy sweater for me.
I practice confrontation recreationally. Pushing buttons excites me. This is literally what I do for fun. It’s humorous to watch, I promise, but not when you’re on the receiving end. And all that, just because they see a fat Dorito guy with a gold chain. The real, sensitive, reflective me never gets across amid the noise of my appearance.
Listen, my point is we all get misread. All the time. Sure, it’s annoying, but I’ve learned to use it to my advantage. For instance, I can easily skulk around in the background of most social situations. And people always leave me alone because they think I’m just some stuck-up guy who’s too proud to talk to anyone. Fine by me, because that gives me space to listen.
I’m always amazed by this: People talk as if I’m invisible. They reveal a lot about themselves directly, but also indirectly through how they talk to other people. Consequently, I’ve gotten good at reading people by simply observing them. You can tell a lot about someone by the way they walk, carry themselves, hold a phone, or even sit in a chair. And I only get the chance to observe so intently because people never approach me.
So I think judgement is a unique opportunity. Whatever flaw you’re falsely assigned, exploit it. You’d be surprised how much you can get away with under the freedom of a false persona.