Did you ever meet someone for the very first time , only to realize that they were actually trying to evaluate you ? I am sure you have and I have too. After all, it is within our nature as human beings to try to estimate the true value of our company.
Such evaluations often starts with the simple innocent question often asked five minutes after you sit with someone new. The question is “What do you do?” which is often asked with a very innocent smile. Dear reader, this question isn’t elevator talk and it is certainly no ice breaker. In fact, it is a question designed to put a value on your experience and knowledge in life. If you say “Well I’m between jobs at the moment” or “I don’t work” you gain less interest and admiration then if you say “I do work” After the words “I do work”, you are expected to recite where as well as a job title. Naturally, your value as a human being instantly increases in the eyes of another person based on those two variables.
Of course, this evaluation changes for women who are married as opposed to women who are single . If you are married and you don’t work then that is perfectly fine. It means your husband a rich and you can afford to sit at home to just be a mom. If you are a working mom, you are subject for pity, as your kids should be your top priority. If you are a single woman and not working then you are pathetic and lazy.
To test my little theory about people’s love to evaluate the person in front of them, I tried re-packaging what I do to make it sound different each time I met someone new, yes that is mean I know but it is all in the name of research I assure you.
Well, you would be surprised to know that I did get different levels of admiration based on what I said each time. See, when I said “I’m a writer” I got some admiration , but when I said “I’m a translator”, I got less admiration. When I said “I work in communications” I got even more admiration , but when I said “I am the Senior Communication Specialist to an NGO working in Public Health” some people started treating me like the expert. Now, to me personally I don’t care about titles. Ultimately my true passion lies in writing. The premium we put on what we do is funny, because if you think about it, what we do for a living is really only 10 percent of who we are as people. If we have lofty titles in big companies, it only means that we are hard workers , driven and ambitious. In this country in particular, it could also mean that we have good connections too as connections go a long way in Jordan. However, our Job title really says nothing about us as people.
People’s opinion of us will also change in relation to where and what you have studied. For example, if you say “I have a degree in English” you will get less admiration than a doctor but if I say “I have a degree in English from Harvard or any other reputable university abroad” this news will grant you a few more “Mashallahs” (Praise the lord). However, if you add that you have a masters degree too then you will get almost the same admiration as the Engineer, but never the Doctor. The Doctor always ranks first in our society, and this admiration is also bestowed on doctors who suck at what they do.
There are more subtle ways in which people will evaluate you. For example, they will ask you the innocent sounding question of “Where do you live?”. Now if you are from Amman , you are well aware of the rankings based on area, and last but certainly not least people will ask you what’s your family name? Now, granted we live in the 21st century, but some people will still ask you that to know about your worth based on the wealth of your forefathers or to simply try to guess what city, village, tribe, clan you are from. Although they are few, but some people will try to guess what side of the Jordan river you are from. I.e. They want to know if you are a Jordanian or a Jordanian of Palestinian origin.
It is really sad that we do that, because based on such parameters we are evaluating people based on factors of their identity that are really beyond their control. Where we live is purely based on economics. What family we belong to s based on genealogy, and our work is controlled by the job market and experience while our field of study is based on personal preference or in some cases an educational system that leaves no room for personal choice.
We leave no room to get to know people based on their goals, their dreams, their fears, and their inspirations. We don’t ask about the silly things that make them laugh or the episodes in their life story that shook them, broke them, or hurt them? No one asks such questions because they call them “Personal”, which is funny because the same people who call these stories personal will also blatantly ask about a person’s salary. I am not saying we should go and get really personal with someone we had just met, but I am saying open the doors to conversation. Talk about life, books, movies, the world in general. Don’t decide whether or not you want to talk to a person based on what they do, where they live, and which family they come from. These things really don’t matter, because they really say nothing about a person’s character.
If we think about it , it is the little anecdotes in our life story that make us unique. It is in the little stories that you will find a person’s true value. Better yet, don’t look for value look for the experience. Just believe in the value you give yourself.