We met a family on holiday one summer, and although the husband was extrovert, chatty, and friendly, I found his wife to be unapproachable. She was one of the strongest woman I’d met, strong in every respect – strong features, personality, powerful shape, and she seemed to have iron-clad emotions.
After a few days hanging around with them, I came to the conclusion that she was a little cold, and unfriendly. This troubled me for a few days, until it dawned on me that my impression of her, and the way it made me treat her – I kept my distance, didn’t address her much – probably made her think that I was the cold unfriendly one!
So I dropped all my ideas about what she was like, and started being friendly to her, smiling and saying hi if we passed in the street, and the change was immediate. Suddenly she became super friendly back, and I was able to chat to her just as freely and happily as with her extrovert husband.
I try to remember this now when I find myself thinking someone is distant or unfriendly. The fact that I think that about them immediately conditions my response to them. I become less friendly to them! And then I realise how I must look in their eyes – just what I see in them, distant and unfriendly!
But as soon as I drop all my ideas about the other person, and turn it round and start being friendly and saying hello with a smile, the hello and the smile comes back again. Most of the people I thought were unapproachable and tough, usually turn out to be just quiet and shy. The unapproachable one had been me.