'Are you gay?'
Was the totally out of the blue, indignant question.
Which resulted in my customary stuttering and obligatory lispy tone reply,
'What do you mean, kinda really happy, as in jolly & gay, in which case YES, I'm always happy, jolly & oh so lively and oh so GAY'
(immediately, I'd realised the 'oh so' part of my reply wasn't necessary!!)
Let me set the scene, decadent bar in a luxurious hotel, in central Paris. Surrounded by incentive winners and the person intrigued by my 'oh so' gay-ness, a seasoned business leader, who constantly preaches not to prejudge!!!
'No, no, no I don't mean that Mike, not Happy, I mean do you bat for the other side?'
'What ? Like play cricket for India, no I'm not very sporty and I hate cricket' was my, digging myself further reply.
'No Mike!!' clearly getting frustrated, edgy and (unfortunately), louder and attracting attention from others, 'I'll ask you straight, are you a homosexual??'
Suddenly, there was SILENCE in the otherwise rowdy bar (it seemed at least to me), you could have heard a pin drop...........Slight pause, wry smile, no direct reply, but a question instead.
'Interesting question, one which I'll gladly answer, if you tell me why you ask'
Now it was his turn to stutter and not look so confident.
'Err not like I'm interested or anything, as you know I'm married'
Well that was a sigh of relief!! Not that I was asking that!! Anyway, he continued (probably wishing he'd never asked in the first place!!)
'Well Mike, it's like this, you're well dressed, you're politely spoken, you're not afraid to wear bright colours, my wife never feels uncomfortable around you and loves talking with you and oh yes, you never talk about your private life, so that's led US to believe you're probably gay'
At this moment in time (especially as the whole bar now seemed interested), thanks to the ounce of common sense that intervened, the words that came to mind were not the words that materialised through my mouth.
After all, I didn't want to insult this esteemed leader, even though he had just demonstrated a complete lack of tact, judgement and general people skills.
'You said US, you mean there are more of you, oh you tease, I'm just glad you didn't know, I soooo love musicals, have the entire Gloria Gaynor and Diana Ross collections, oh and of course, I'm such a FABULOUS dancer too'
Unfortunately, that sentence came out in an extremely camp voice (well you try and say it ANY other way!!)
At which point, people laughed, he was red-faced and clearly wished he could disappear, I walked (some would say 'minced'), off with my double Babycham!!
(Incidentally, the only reason his wife didn't feel uncomfortable around me, was because I was one of the few men that didn't stare at her breasts...........well not blatantly anyway!!)
PRECONCEPTION & PREJUDGEMENT, surely two mindsets that can deviate the mind into incorrect thoughts and feelings, which could result in the wrong actions being taken.
Yet it's so unavoidable, we're programmed with EVERY thing that happens to us from the moment we're born, not to mention poisoning from the media and the influence of all the people we meet during our lives.
A colleague of mine introduced me to their new partner, who just happened to be wearing a brown cord jacket, instantly I thought, DULL Geograpgphy Teacher.
Why? Because somewhere in my tiny mind is a memory of a dull geography teacher who wore similar clothes, therefore my brain had recalled such memories and associated them to this person.
On this occasion, I was RIGHT - totally DULL!! Or was it that with my prejudging he never got a fair chance from the outset, I had already decided he was going to be dull, hence my interaction with him may have been lack-lustre, which may have resulted his being the same in return.
In fact, I can guarantee YOU have made hundreds of such prejudgements just this week, ones which have directed, coloured and channelled your views, actions & emotions.
People say don't prejudge, that's a VERY tall order and one that goes against EVERYTHING we've ever learnt during the path of our lives, (both consciously and subconsciously). Yet imagine how different things could be if you could take everything and everyone, on their own individual merit.
Think of some of the decisions you've made in the last few days, there is no doubt 100% (rightly or wrongly), have been based on preconceived ideas & emotions.
Think further, imagine the difference in the world - there are major conflicts, loss of lives and huge wars caused by prejudging.
The answer isn't simple, except to consciously assess almost EVERY thought you have and by doing so teach your mind to question it's own learning, try it for a DAY, question every idea, every feeling and every action you take - undoubtedly you will THINK, SEE and ACT differently.
The way we view others can seriously affect our personal and professional lives.
It's an area of human nurture, learning & mindset I find fascinating and one that is almost impossible to conquer - let me know how you get on and how you personally try and change the learning's of a lifetime (either publicly through this blog or you can email me at Michael.Khatkar@SKY.COM)
In the meantime, I fancy some dancing to a rousing rendition of Gloria Gaynor's 'I am, what I am'