“You can’t ever really know who is in the room.”

Photo by Greg Lippert on Unsplash

“You can’t ever really know who is in the room.”

Day #2 of 30 Days of Insights, and how I turn them into actionable wisdom that changes my life.

The context:

I recently had an experience with an incredible group of people over a 3 day period. Like most people in similar situations, we initially relied on first impressions and a brief exchange of basic information to get a sense of who each other was.

By the end of 3 intense days however, every single person was revealed to be fascinating, rich with experience, generous with love, knowledge and gifts, completely unique unto themselves and powerful in unforeseeable ways. as we sat in awestruck appreciation, that’s when I heard it…”you can never really know who is in the room…”

Instead what usually happens is this: the mind automatically jumps into its gear for evaluating everything and everyone based only on its own past experience.

The brain categorizes a pe

unconsciously in a fraction of a second. Then cognitively it identifies patterns, again from the past and jumps quickly to general conclusions, which in the grand scheme of things are incredibly limited. The mind categorizes, judges, compares, compartmentalizes. It has assumed. It has decided it knows. But this is not the insight.

The insight is this:

Once the brain does this, it stops looking for information. It stops being curious. The job is done, its attention moves on. The person has been quickly categorized. It believes it ‘knows’ who is in the room.

Once we decide ‘we know’, we immediately shrink our world and stop our imagination. We have given up the chance to see the truth of that person. We miss everything about who is truly in front of us. We lose the chance for an amazing connection, of gaining wisdom, of hearing great stories of adventure and courage and heroism, of laughter and deep pain. We miss the experience of the one and only expression of life that they uniquely are.

I was lucky that the structure over these 3 days included space carved out for sharing who we are. When that space has been available me in the past, have I always taken advantage of it? Haven’t I let fears of ‘the other’ stop me from seeing who’s actually in the room, right in front of me? How many amazing people and stories and gifts have I missed out on?

I definitely need to put this insight to work for me, and interrupt this phenomenon.

How can I do that? What if I had 3 questions that would automatically open up my curiosity about a person and focus on what is unique about them, versus my assumptions about who they seem to be ? I would not get stuck with the categorization of someone based on familiar data run through my brain.

So I have come up with 3 questions to get me started. I’m sure these will change, improve, and grow more interesting over time, but this where I will start to make this insight work for me every day:

1. What life experience would you say has most shaped


2. If you could have the answer to one life mystery, what

would you want to know the truth of right now?

3. What is calling you next in your life?

These are in my phone now, until I memorize them, and I’ll make a note to myself every time I use them.

Leave a Comment