Do not kid yourself, people are making rash generalizations about you all the time.
Today I was eating lunch, alone, (sorry Keith Ferrazzi, sometimes you should eat alone!) at my favorite cool Austin Restaurant. Casa De Luz is an out-of-the-way vegan restaurant that I have come to enjoy over the past several years. The food and the atmosphere are both great - and when my planned lunch meeting cancelled I decided to go there anyway and continue reading Thomas Friedman's "Flat, Hot and Crowded". (good book, by the way -- but very technical and takes some effort).
A woman I do not know approached me and we had the following exchange:
Her: Are you Thom Singer?
Me: Yes, I am.
Her: I saw you speak a couple of times at The Chamber of Commerce. I enjoyed your presentation on networking skills and would like to read your book sometime [etc....].
Me: Thank you.
Her: What are you reading?
Me: "Flat, Hot, and Crowded" [I held up the book].
Her: [After a pause and a funny look on her face] Hmmmmm, I would have never imagined you the type to be eating in a vegan restaurant reading a book on global warming. [shrugging her shoulders]. I guess you never know.
Me: [smiling] I am not sure that was a compliment.
Her: [not smiling] You just struck me as more of a steak or BBQ kinda guy. Very corporate.
Me: [still smiling] Oh don't worry, I eat lots of dead cows!
I do not think she found my response funny and politely ended our breif conversation. I went back to reading my book.
As I left the restaurant she was sitting on a bench in the meditation garden. I smiled and waved as I walked past her. She called out after me "Oh, and do not wear a fancy leather jacket the next time you eat here". This time she was smiling and she waved a nice wave. I think we parted on good terms.
Doh! Had never considered I was wearing leather in the vegan restaurant. It is cold outside today in Austin and my coat is nice and warm. I am not sure if this was really a faux pas or not to the rest of the patrons, my being clad in dead animal skin. There was no sign asking for leather goods to be left outside!
And for the record, my jacket is not fancy.
I spent some time contemplating her judgement that I was not someone who would frequent vegan cuisine and educate myself about our world wide ecological crisis. If I came across as "corporate" when I spoke at a business setting (ummm, The Chamber of Commerce...hello!), is that enough information to understand anything about me personally?
Yet we all pre-judge people. We look at their clothes, online photos, haircuts, manners, cars, houses, job titles, etc... and lump each other into easy buckets. But human beings are complicated creatures. If we try to assume too much about those around us we will be wrong more often than right.
Thus, don't guess about people. Ask questions of them and you will learn a lot more about their hearts and souls than if you simply categorize.
Have A Great Day.