September 6 – Getting to know a person heart-to-heart

September 6. “One learns people through the heart, not the eyes or the intellect.” (Mark Twain)

If I want to get to know someone, to really understand who they are, I can’t do it with their looks or their resume. To truly know someone means that I must be able to know them through their heart, and that can only happen when my heart is open as well.

Looks can deceive, and often do. In this visual age where television dominates, where youtube vlogs are on the rise, and where even news outlets rely on pretty video to tell their stories, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that we can get to know someone by looks. We all know that the book cannot be judged by the cover, but it is still easy to fall into the trap. We see people with perfect hair, gorgeous smiles, and toned bodies, and we think that we can like them. The pull of attraction is strong and primal, but it is also superficial. I can look at hundreds or pictures of people, and I can tell whether their appearance is pleasing. But, I cannot look at a picture and tell you about the person.

At work I read hundreds of resumes and performance reviews every year. They carefully document the professional accomplishments of a person, and can give a basic understanding of their capabilities. But too often I see hiring managers relying too heavily on the resume as a judge of the person. These short, beautifully written, carefully edited documents can count off experiences and skills, but they cannot tell me how the person will fit in with the team. They cannot tell me anything about who the person is, only what the person has done. This is why the interview process is indispensable. Without it I run the risk of having a team full of people who are skilled at writing resumes, but who cannot get along with each other, and who cannot really deliver.

Mark Twain had it right in this quote. To learn a person, and to learn people in general, the heart must be involved. And, to do it successfully, it isn’t just their heart that has to be involved, but mine as well. There has to be a heart to heart connection, or I cannot really learn anything about them. If a person lays their heart out to me, and my response is intellectual, or visually superficial, then I will have learned nothing about them. But when I open my heart, when I make myself vulnerable to the situation, then that connection can be made, and I can truly learn who the person is.

Much is made about love at first site. There are countless songs and movies and poems dedicated to the notion that a person can fall in love with another on that first site. I think it’s all hogwash. I think that the only thing I can do on first site is to fall into lust with someone. I can assess whether their appearance is pleasing to the eye, but little else. Maybe I am the anti-romantic oddball, but for me love is about so much more than physical appearance, that to reduce it to something that can happen in an instant cheapens the process and the emotion.

My wife was a very beautiful girl when we met, and she has grown into an even more beautiful woman every day since. There was, and is, and always will be a physical attraction between us. But that isn’t love, and her looks are not what made me fall for her. What made me fall fast and hard for her was how our hearts connected to one another. I am confident that if she were writing this blog post she’d say the same thing about me. That heart-to-heart connection is what kept us dating one another, eventually marrying, and growing into the successful middle aged couple we are.

I have heard many success stories of people who met through online dating services. I know of happily married couples who met on such sites. But I know of none who read an online profile and fell in love on the spot. Falling for someone based on their dating site “resume” would be as foolhardy as hiring someone based solely on their work resume.

Getting to know people always involves the heart – mine and theirs. If I allow my heart to be open to the relationship, then I have the chance to see into theirs. From there I can get to know them on that personal level. Without the heart, then all I can get to know is their physical description, and a list of the things they’ve done, and nothing at all about them as a person.

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