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Some "little social questions"


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I've been trying to improve on reading people and not being caught off-guard by any obstacle that may pop up. This got me thinking of a few instances where I'm just not sure what the best way to think or react is. I believe these could be on your mind too...perhaps a psychologist has seen these cases:


If someone tries to embarrass you our put you down, not a big deal is made. Then, when retaliating or "fighting back" (on an EQUAL measure), witnesses feel that you are the bad guy and are picking on a defenseless person. I've seen this happen several times, it's actually happened with me a few times, I don't get it. The first person is clearly in the wrong since they're the ones with malicious intent. The second person - presuming they're not going overboard - is simply trying to fight back. They don't deserve to be a doormat and take all the abuse, right?


Some people just don't believe in you. Maybe you fumbled the first assignment or you asked a borderline-dumb question once. Regardless, people don't think you'll ever get the job done. When you do, it's a "fluke." If it happens more than once, it's "pure luck." When you out-perform them on something, it's seen as a stunner. I'm aware this has a lot to do with first impressions, but do you believe people stick to that first impression no matter what, even if there is overwhelming evidence? I know in baseball, one bad month can determine a player's rep for a season (it's called "anchoring") even if the player does well during the other months.


You have a hunch about someone. Just don't trust them. You feel the second you open up to them, you'll get hosed. There's no evidence to this at all, just a feeling. I've seen instances like this before too. Some people can look you in the eye, sound firm and confident, and haven't done any mischievous. Regardless, they're not to be trusted! This could range anywhere from a group project to knowing if a guy is safe enough to date!


These were just things that crossed my mind (I probably caught it off some TV show or something). What do you all feel about things like this? Are first impressions so important they cannot ever waver a person's reputation? Can someone prove to be very trustworthy...but you still don't feel it? And does fighting back make you the real bad guy?

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The first point is situation-oriented. Depending on the depth of the insult, sometimes it's best to take the insult, since it will make the first person look like an ass. If the insult is over-the-edge, I've never seen anyone who commented back seem like an ass.


From personal experiences.


The second point, that "first impressions are everything" pretty much fits right in, and it's connected to a personal fear of loss. If you screwed up, and I was affected by it, you could do it right the next 80 times, but I'll always know that there's a CHANCE that you may do it wrong, since you've shown me that you could do it wrong in the past. Even if once.


From personal experiences.


And hunches relates from personal experiences. Your mind will try to connect anything new [a person in this case] to something you're familiar with from the past. Now, if the physical appearance, body language, whatever, of this new person is connected to someone you did not have the best opinion of in the past, you'd instantly connect the new person to a past characteristic. Therein is that hunch.


From personal experiences.

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Depends on the social status of the person making the put down. If they are of a lower status than you, then if you retaliate, yes you are in the wrong (so percieved). If they are in a higher social status, you would be percieved as fighting back - totally acceptable.


Again, social status. If people don't think you're capable of doing something, yet you consistently prove you can, then the matter becomes something more of a failure of the people percieving said actions to reconcile who you are with what they percieve you to be.


There is some truth to this. Most people would be wise listen to their gut in instances like this.

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Thanks for the insight so far. Some very interesting responses, I was very intrigued.


-I can definitely see how the first situation can fit in with social value. However, if someone comes after me, I can't just sit there and take it. I used to do that (ignore, move on), but it made me feel weak. I was at a small party at school, and some intoxicated kid I know a little was trying to punch me in the chest for some reason. I don't like to fight, but told him if he lands one, then I'm throwing him accross the room (I'm a bit stronger). He landed one, and then he went flying. The people who saw this believe I shouldn't have retaliated - at all. I disagree. The next time I saw him, the guy knew he provoked the retaliation and apologized for it. I've also been involved in instances where someone will yell at me for something I did "wrong." I then calmly dissect their argument, pointing out all their errors, and people feel I was "being mean."


-I agree that first impressions are very important. However, I don't think a first impression should determine an entire reputation. Some professional athletes are miserable their rookie years, then evolve into all-stars. I don't think anyone is thinking, "well he was bad as a rookie..."

Russ - So is the timing of the "doing something wrong" real important in your eyes? For example, if I was to mess up the first time I tried something, is that worse than if I messed up the tenth time I tried the same thing? Even though both instances were only messed up once? In my personal experiences, I am "ok" the first time I try something, but very good at it the second time I try something.

Sn0man - Are you saying that people will hold you to a lower level - even if you have proven you can do something - because of their own fear that they were wrong? They don't want to admit defeat? Perhaps this can explain some of the "fluke" ad "lucky" comments that some people will use towards a person.


-Interesting feedback on the trust thing. It seems that the way one presents themselves factors into trust more than actual evidence. My close friends consider me the "most trustworthy" in the group. Meanwhile, some of the other people I meet just don't trust me. I'm not a very good liar so I tell the truth. I also look people in the eye. My guess is...because I can come off a little too optimistic at times, people think I'm fake. Regardless, it's very interesting to see that sometimes, the factors of trust or mistrust can be on other outside factors!

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I feel the reason I may be so curious about these situations is because in today's world, not as many people rely on logic or what "should be." As you can see in the replies so far, a lot of things appear to be based on perceived social status or a feeling they may have, for whatever reason. One of my parents is in law so that's possibly why I do some things more "by the book" than others.


If anyone has any insights or responses to the questions I posed so far in the thread (or a point someone else has made), feel free to comment.

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