Benefit of the Doubt

close up photography of adult black and white short coat dog
Photo by Alexandru Rotariu on

It’s Tuesday Truthies: I’m a book-by-the-cover and Wine-(and Beer)-by-the-label-art person. Judging a book by its cover introduced me to the joy of Gregory Maguire and Wicked. Totally proof that the system works. That said, my favourite Baco has a lackluster label. And I’m not *actually* allowed to buy beer because my choices are untrustworthy (see label-art purchase theory) . So, I might be willing to admit that the system *could* be flawed. And Apparently if I’m only willing to drink the liquid in the neck of the bottle, I don’t get to choose the Beer de Maison anyway. Stupid beer rules.

But I digress.

Lately I’ve been chewing on what happens when you get past First Impressions.

This month, I’ve had a unique opportunity with the cadet corps that I’ve never had before. I got to be the Army Cadet League rep on merit review boards. These boards are an opportunity for senior cadets to be interviewed to help determine whether they should be promoted to the next rank, which can also influence whether they are awarded appointments (such as Company Sergeant Major or Regimental Sergeant Major). There are 5 questions that the cadets should be able to answer, and 3 evaluators who rate their answers. At the beginning of each interview, the person heading the board gave a bit of an introduction to the process. He said that this was only a part of the evaluation process. Some of them answer in a way that is accurate to their demonstrated abilities. Some of them don’t interview well, some of them hit it right out of the park in unexpected ways. Still, If you knock the merit review out of the park, but you’re a clown the rest of the time, you might not get promoted. On the flip side, if you are usually a good cadet and your nerves get the better of you, it doesn’t mean you won’t be promoted.

I’ve been thinking about this disclaimer – it’s not one thing that qualifies (or disqualifies) you, this is just a part of the overall evaluation.

A friend of mine, several years ago, told me about an interaction she had with a farm family from whom she was considering a not-inexpensive free-range beef purchase. She said that the husband was a no-nonsense guy who was short on pleasantries, but not unpleasant, but the wife was a kind of a bitch. I said that perhaps she just caught the wife on a difficult day. Maybe she just needed a Snickers. One poor interaction is an indicator of a bad mood, several poor interactions were a trend of someone’s character. I think about this often – it’s easy to write someone off because of the dreaded first impression. The other side of that coin, though, is, if you don’t want someone to think you’re an ass, don’t act like an ass. There’s a transaction there – I need to be responsible for my behaviour, and you need to forgive me the shortcoming of periodic random bad moods. Everyone must have a certain tolerance for other people’s foibles.

I’ve been thinking, though, about the tipping point where repeated transgressions aren’t foibles anymore; rather, they’re behaviour issues. I mean, you don’t have to like everyone and someone who my friend thinks is a right and proper jackwad might be an absolute delight to me. How many times do you need to endure the jackwad before it’s OK (and advisable, even) to just cut bait and choose to invest in more rewarding interactions and relationships?

Since I first heard the officer at the merit review explicitly describe the process to the cadets, I’ve been thinking about what interactions I have just written off and why. One impression and done. I’ve stopped going to the bank in Preston for exactly this reason. Talk down to me and I’ll kick you to the curb so fast your head will spin. I quit a gym because one of the trainers offended me so deeply that she is only known in my house as “the C-U-Next-Tuesday from [the gym]”. Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me. The dog bites you once, it’s the dog’s fault; the dog bites you twice, it’s your fault.

There is certainly value in having a measured evaluation based on several data points. From hockey tryouts to theatre auditions, from merit review boards to job interviews, and from forging relationships with neighbours to potential mates it’s good to see if someone is who you think they are, and not just who you want them to be.

I read a thinky-thought on the Book of Life blog a while ago: babies can’t tell us what’s wrong with them, but we’re absolutely generous in our interpretation of what the problem might be. “We are constantly aware of just how much the workings of hunger, a tricky digestive tract, or lack of sleep may affect human behaviour. How helpful it would be if we were more often able to apply a similar method of interpretation around adults. How kind we would be if we could look beneath the surface behaviour – the unpleasantness, viciousness, and desperate grumpiness – and see that what could really be going on is just confusion, fear, and exhaustion”

I feel like there’s often a lot of work between where I am the benefit of the doubt.

One thought on “Benefit of the Doubt

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