Don’t Freeze Them in Time: How to Change Your View of Others

abstract clock frozen in time

When you freeze someone in time, you don’t see the person as they truly are. Here’s how to stop, and what to do instead.

Do you have a friend or relative you’ve seen grow up? You know, the person you’ve known since they were a young child, maybe even since birth?

If so, maybe you’ve made the same mistake I’ve been guilty of: No matter how much the person changes or matures, you always see them as that young child. Maybe you’ve even embarrassed them, unintentionally.

“Oh, I still remember that time you peed all over yourself…”

The problem with this, is you’re not seeing the person for who they are. They’re not that snot-nosed, spoiled little kid anymore.

They’ve grown. They’ve matured. They may even be able to teach us a thing or two.

And the sooner you realize that, the better off you’ll be. And, the better your relationship will be.

But here’s the thing: We don’t do this only with children we’ve seen grow up.

We make this mistake all the time.

We do it with our workmates.

We do it with our families.

We do it with our friends.

Or, with people who used to be our friends.

And if you’re not careful, you might be doing it right now. You might…

Freeze them in time

When you freeze someone in time, you don’t see the person as they truly are. You see a snapshot of that person, a limited picture that doesn’t capture the whole person.

And many times, the picture is of them at their worst.

Research shows that we tend to remember moments in which our emotions are triggered. A part of our brain known as the amygdala plays a large role in attaching emotional significance to those memories…Meaning, if you have a bad encounter with someone, you’ll likely get a negative feeling when you see or think of them.

For example, if someone was rude to you once. Or, they let you down or disappointed you somehow. Or, you saw them let others down…If it made you feel bad when you witnessed it, you’ll likely remember it. And that memory, in turn, strongly influences how you think and feel about that person—weeks, months, even years later.

But, remember: Everyone has a bad day. Or even a bad week, month, or year.

Could you be freezing that person in time? Could your characterization of them be stuck in the past?

Or, consider another scenario.

Let’s say you’re a manager, and you’re tasked with evaluating a person and considering them for further responsibility. At the moment, that person happens to have come down with a bout of Covid, and they’ve struggled for weeks.

Can you see past the current situation? Can you remember all the good work they’ve done? Can you see them for what they’re truly capable of?

Or will you freeze them in time?

Of course, all of us fall victim to our emotions or our limited perspective at times. The question, then, is how can you fight the tendency to freeze people in time? Here’s a simple framework you can try.

When dealing with others, ask yourself the following:

1. Is my view of this person severely affected by experiences from the past?

2. Am I able to see the good this person has done, is doing, or has the potential to do in the future?

Those two questions can help you to avoid freezing others in time. Instead of seeing a snapshot, you’ll start seeing the whole person.

And if you can see it, you can help them to see it.

After all, that may be exactly what the person needs.


If you liked this post, you might enjoy more of our emotional intelligence tools: simple frameworks to help you better understand and manage emotions, communicate more effectively, and build stronger relationships.


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