Meet peers, stereotypes and misinterpretations

Meet peers, stereotypes and misinterpretations

"Ignoring the weaknesses of the human soul makes us more unsuspecting without making us more kind."


  • 1 Knowing others: five laws
  • 2 Stereotypes: how to handle them
  • 3 Personality traits: biases and misinterpretations

Knowing others: five laws

The knowledge we have of others is directly related to the interest and need of each and the moment in which it occurs. Five laws have been described that identify how we manage our knowledge of others with others.

First law: The lower our dependence and interest in a person, the greater the danger of assessing it in the wrong way. Motivation is important when knowing others. However, alone is not enough. The image of another person relies primarily on the conjunction of appearance and speech.

Second Law: The image that we form of other people, is made up of the appearance and the data related to speaking, almost equally.

The third factor involved in the formation of another person's image is the previous experience that we could have of it.

Third law: We keep each person a basic emotional imprint that is the sum of the different contacts we have had with them.

Fourth Law: We all rely on dominant traits to classify our fellow men. It is what we call stereotypes. From these dominant traits, we tend to make a global judgment (generalization).

A stereotype becomes a complete drawing of the other person we make from observing a few traits.. A man with glasses and an elusive look can evoke the stereotype of the clueless sage. Once this personal identification (stereotype) occurs, we believe we know it and believe we can predict its behavior in certain situations.

Fifth Law: The image we have of other people is always influenced by the interests of the group and the role that person plays in the group.

Stereotypes: how to handle them

Stereotypes have a huge advantage in interpersonal relationships: they allow us to work with intuitions about others (working hypothesis) after a few minutes of meeting a person. It is worth learning to take advantage of them. To handle stereotypes in a positive way you have to:

  1. Correct the influences of the environment, emotional and group acting when capturing the image of the other person.
  2. Know and compensate for the so-called big mistakes in the knowledge of others, as well as the labels we usually put on others.
  3. Handle stereotypes as mere working hypotheses liable to be changed when appropriate, and complementary to knowledge by axes or areas.

Regarding section 1) we must say that the specific moment and circumstances in which we meet another person, strongly influence the image that we form of it. On the one hand, we have the personal interest that moves us to relate to that person, but also our own state of mind, the concrete situation in which we find ourselves, or the fact that said person belongs to a larger group on which we have already formed an image.

As for section 2), we could say that there are universal and other particular biases in the way each of us has to judge others.

Universal Biases

  • Confuse intelligence with personality.
  • Confuse security by will.
  • Confuse cordiality for friendship.
  • Judge personality by a nonverbal trait: voice, appearance, facial expressiveness, smell ... being prone to communication repulsions.

Individual biases

Influence of our basic interests:

  • Power Oriented
  • Achievement oriented.
  • Oriented to belonging to a specific group.

To try to be more objective in the task of knowing other people, we must avoid associating the speed of thought and reaction of the person, with the perception of intelligence. They are two different phenomena. Let's also avoid confusing being smart with being smart. Smart people seem to know the problems well, they can be intuitive and quick reflexes. However, the solutions that give the problems are due to some pre-established clichés, and if they are not endowed with intelligence, they are soon overcome by the events. Let's not forget the aphorism: "Only intelligent people are able to plan an uncertain future."

Personality traits: biases and misinterpretations

The will implies persistence and monitoring of a plan. Security is equivalent to poise in the way of acting. The will is to face difficulties, know how to sacrifice and assume costs to make an idea possible. Security, on the other hand, is a quality of communication. Safe people are not necessarily persistent in their intentions and wills. Some of them easily bend to the first difficulties, even if they appear to be a lot of poise.

Cordial people are cordial as a habit of social relationship. Cordiality indicates nothing of the ability to have emotional solidarity (friendship). Very cordial people can turn their backs on asking for a favor.

People experience well-being by communicating with other people of equal level of reactivity in the rhythm of gestures and the way of speaking. Instead, when we are facing a person with slower reactions we get restless, and in front of a person with faster reactions, we get nervous.

Something similar happens with the appearance. We feel more comfortable with people of our age and condition, especially if they dress similarly. This bias is so important that it must be taken into account in the personnel selection processes. Unfortunately, there is a risk of giving a job to a person with low training, simply because it looks like us.

Another fundamental aspect is to know our “verbal repulsions" We understand by verbal repulsion the pattern of intonation and timbre of voice that immediately gives us a feeling of discomfort. Something similar occurs with certain facial expressions and smells, both in the line of repulsion and attraction. As usual, our own physical defects observed in others cause us repulsion. The acceptance of the physical defect leads to the annulment of the repulsion.

People we are oriented in our social life basically towards power, achievement, or belonging to a group. Nobody gets rid of having these three drives in different degrees and intensity. They are the engine of our will.

When we we orientate towards power, the judgment we are going to make of others will be strongly conditioned by questions such as:

  • To what extent does this person pose a danger to me?
  • To what extent does it give me more power or influence?
  • To what extent does this person have more power than me?

Achievement oriented, the variables that will condition our judgments on others will be of the type:

  • To what extent do you report gain (be it material, welfare, ethics)?
  • To what extent does it facilitate the path to the goal that I have set (or have set ourselves as a team)?

Group / social oriented The questions will be of the type:

  • Is this person responsible?
  • Able to show solidarity with the group?
  • Able to provide cohesion rather than disintegration or clashes?
  • Capable of sacrifices and enduring frustrations?

It turns out very It is convenient to know our primary orientation to counteract it in a more objective way. A person basically oriented towards power, for example, can select his collaborators based on loyalty. After some time you can realize that you have built a team of flatterers, unable to develop initiatives.

Next, we are going to offer you a series of practical tasks to incorporate into our habits to attenuate the tendency to stereotyped rigidly to others and give us the opportunity to know people more objectively.

  • Homework 1. Compensate for excessively good or bad stereotypes.
  • Task 2 Increase the stereotypes we handle in quality.
  • Task 3 Complement the stereotype with more objective assessments.
  • Task 4 Reject negative stereotypes that others try to hang us.

Raimundo García Córdova

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