I was prepared to punch him in the face.
I didn’t know who “he” was, exactly. “He” was someone. Anyone. It could have been a “she” for all I knew.
I wouldn’t punch a girl. Maybe I should though. I’m all for equal rights. The moral of feminism: girls want to be punched in the face. Did I pass the test, Lena?
I can’t lift my arm overhead right now. Grade 3 shoulder separation. My range of motion would be perfect if I were in the Schutzstaffel. So I had the following scenario running on repeat in my head.
Someone was going to give me flak for not being able to perform an overhead physical task. Maybe it’d be an old lady in the supermarket asking me to get something down from the top shelf and I’d be all, “I’m sorry my 6’4” physically capable looking frame can’t accomplish this task for you. Good luck. Don’t slip and fall in the bathtub anytime soon. Bye.”
And then she’d be all, “Oh for Pete’s sake, this younger generation is a bunch of hairless sissies.”
And I’d be all, “No, you don’t understand. I really can’t grow a beard. I’ve tried. I’m really insecure about it, and you just hurt my feelings. I’m redacting what I said earlier. I hope you slip and fall in the bath tub. And break your hip.”
Someone was going to make a snarky comment about me on account of my (current) disability.
(Ha! Disability. I’m mashing all sorts of politically correct buttons right now. I might as well be playing Tekken as Eddy Gordo.)
Whoever this snarky commentator would be — that’s who I was prepared to punch.
And I got my chance.
I was boarding an airplane, unable to lift my carry on luggage into the overhead bin. So I did the sensible thing: I forced my lady-friend to lift it for me. (She’s only 5’2”, har har.)
I’m coaching (yelling at) her. “Use those muscles! Get that thing up there!”
And that’s when it happened.
An older man behind us said, “It’s nice that you’re helping.”
WHY SO PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE, BATMAN?
Despite my original face punching intentions, I kept my cool. I turned his way, pointed at my sling, and said, “I can barely move my arm.”
His snark laden superiority complex laced face melted into one of apologetic regret. Witnessing this 180 felt good. I’m a shitty human. Whatever. I already hate myself, might as well add a few more pancakes and make it a tall stack.
When we landed, he helped me put my book bag on. Because when you only have one arm, putting a book bag is like solving a Rubik’s cube. He also helped us get our luggage down.
He was obviously a kind man, but he got owned by the WYSIATI heuristic. “WYSIATI” is an acronym created by Daniel Kahneman that stands for What You See Is All There Is
We make decisions and judgments using information available to us — no matter how limited (it’s usually always limited) — as if it were the only information out there. We rarely step back and ask ourselves, “What information don’t I have?”
The man on the plane fell for WYSIATI, but he’s not alone. You fall for it. I fall for it. I’m in the lobby of a hotel right now making snap judgments about everyone I see.
That guy is wearing white rimmed sunglasses? He must be a douche bag. OH. WAIT. That’s just my reflection in the mirror.
90% of that chick’s butt cheek mass is hanging out of her bikini. She must be a slu…gift from God put on this earth for the sole purpose of my eyeballs right now; I’d be a fool not to stare.
The moral WYSIATI, given the stories above, appears to be: don’t be a dick. Don’t be so quick to judge others.
But how we feel about (and treat) others is only one facet of WYSIATI. It also affects how we feel about ourselves.
Because most of us engage in the following serial killerish behavior: comparing ourselves to other people.
But we never really compare ourselves to other people. We compare to the parts of other people we can see. And, usually, the parts of other people we can see are the parts they want us to see. In other words, just browse fucking Instagram.
Although a diatribe on social media would be heavily relevant right now, I won’t go there. Perhaps another day. Just know, for now, that social media is a cesspool for WYSIATI.
WYSIATI is a bitch. Right? An entire book could be written about WYSIATI. It affects…everything.
Consider that WYSIATI has been a background programming running in your mind ever since you’ve been able to think. A lot of thoughts and judgments you already have (and will continue to have) about how the world works are a product of WYSIATI.
Meaning a lot of the things you think you know and understand are just that: things formulated with LIMITED INFORMATION that you THINK you know and understand…but DON’T.
The moral of all of this is, of course: WYSI(SN’T)ATI. But there’s something else to keep in mind.
You know about WYSIATI, so you won’t fall for it anymore. You have the antidote. Right?
Wrong. You’ll fall for it. Often. 97.3% of the time, to be as exact as something not trying to be exact at all. Because WYSIATI isn’t under your conscious control.
The you that you think about when you consciously think about the you that you are isn’t always in charge of your thoughts, beliefs, and judgments.
You can consciously acknowledge that people aren’t 100% defined by their clothes and physical appearance. Yet it’s been shown that we form impressions of people within (ready for this?) less than one second of meeting them.
Your subconscious is the true protagonist of your thoughts, whether you realize it or not. (Hint: you don’t.)
Overriding WYSIATI takes conscious effort.
It’s not easy.
Which is why you rarely do it.
Talk about a happy ending.
Actionable advice is for idiots, anyway.