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Knowing Someone’s Intentions

Knowing Someone's Intentions
Knowing Someone’s Intentions

Seeing The Cracks

At first sight, things appear perfect. When you first meet someone – you don’t see who they are. You only see future possibilities. Your first impression is determined by their superficial characteristics. But knowing someone’s intentions is much more important.

When you spend enough time with them, you notice their frustrating habits – their subtle annoying patterns of behavior. And soon enough, you become disillusioned. And every time you see them, you’re only seeing a distortion of who that person really is. You’re only exposed to a snapshot of who they are. You know absolutely nothing about their history, their background, their real thoughts and feelings, what the people who know them the most think about them, their family, their secrets, their potentially malicious intentions, their future, their dreams, their integrity, their value system, and their mental health.

They are not who you thought they were. The image you projected onto them was idealistic and unrealistic. Of course, the converse is true, as they experience the same sequence of thoughts that you do.

“When I was a boy at St. Alban’s Secondary School, the school took us on this cultural trip to observe art at one of the… one of those big famous London museums. Anyway, when I was there, I came across this statue of a Greek goddess in marble. Aphrodite, something like that. Beautiful, she was. Perfect female form. Chiseled features. Exquisite. I stood in awe of her. Finally, the teacher calls us all over, and I’m walking past it, and on the way I notice, in the side of this Greek goddess, all these cracks, chips, imperfections. Ruined her for me. Well, that’s Nikki. A beautiful sculpture… damaged… in a way you don’t notice ’til you get too close.” – Jude Law, Alfie (2004) 

And it’s not just with people. It could be your fascination with a certain type of career, or subject, or ideology. Whenever you dig deeper into anything, you understand its limitations. And when the magic is gone, you risk compromising your relationship or career path. But infatuation is only a first step – it was never meant to be permanent. It’s better to adjust your expectations from the start, to know what to expect and what not to expect.

But sometimes, you give people too much credit. You make your decision to either proceed in this relationship or not based on very little evidence. It could very well be that the person beneath the facade has the worst intentions towards you and is deliberately setting up a trap.

Catch The Slip-Up 

You are a collection of multiple personalities. In a moment, one of their hidden personalities will shine through. In a moment of laziness, they will reveal to you an important clue about who they are. The key is to pay attention, and to not interrupt them. Allow people to speak for long enough, and their intentions will inevitably be revealed. Very few people have the self-control, discipline, and awareness necessary to avert this common behavioral glitch.

You can notice that in yourself, too. You will often – if you allow yourself to speak without too much restraint – feel surprised at some of the things you end up saying. That’s only because you’re thinking out loud. Speaking and writing are ways of thinking. When you have a conversation with someone, and you feel relaxed, you will allow your thoughts to percolate to the surface. This is what happens when people see a therapist. They are given the time and space to think things through.

If you want to understand what people think, don’t listen to the pre-manufactured answers they give you. Instead, act like a therapist, and listen to them. Dangerous people will never walk around with a “danger” sign glued to their foreheads. A certain degree of cunning, awareness, and skill is required on your part.

Some people are dangerous not because they might kill you, but because they might systematically cloud your judgement. Other people are dangerous, not because they want make your life hell, but because they want to make your life great – so you’ll be afraid to leave them. And others are dangerous, not because they want something you have, but because they will work very hard to make you think that they have something you want.

Danger comes in a number of sophisticated forms, and the more sophisticated the person you’re dealing with, the more effort you need to invest in reading their intentions.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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