(Prepare for a novel)
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t form negative Gestalts that often. On a daily basis I encounter people that just have a way of seeming generally unlikable. While there are some individuals that I’ve known for some time that I don’t particularly enjoy spending my time with, most of my negative Gestalts form on the road.
Every month I make a commute back home that is just over 600 miles round trip. As a result, I lose my patience pretty quickly with tailgaters, drunks, speeders (like 25mph+ over the limit when I’m already going 10 over), and people who don’t stop at stop signs (or yield at yield signs). It doesn’t get too irritating until about 100 miles in. At that point, I immediately perceive them as a horrible person both in and out of the car. I hate them, and yet I don’t even know what they look like. I don’t need to. All I need to know is that they don’t care if they’re putting someone’s life in danger, including mine. They just want to get to where they’re going faster.
Now, on the other hand, I had a friend that owned a 2010 Chevy Camaro. He was a really nice guy, and I enjoyed spending time with him. I used to ride shotgun with him, speeding down country roads. Sometimes he did very questionable things like drifting on public roads or burning out in empty parking lots. Had I not been his friend, I probably would have thought he was a scumbag or something. It was more or less a double standard for a while, but it was so fun I couldn’t bring myself to tell him to stop.
Going back to the negativity effect, I’ve also had that experience in-state as opposed to out-of-state. I’ve been out of California more than a few times, and I’ve noticed that many people in California are pretty rude to strangers. I’ve had my share of random people telling me off because I held the door open, or I say “good evening” and they glare at me like I’m the one being rude. Every time I went out of state, everyone was so kind to me. If I held the door open, they said “thank you” with an authentic smile on their face. No one ignored me when I asked for directions. People happily talked to strangers about how beautiful the sights were or gave helpful advice about the area. No exceptions yet. Now, I want to make it clear that not EVERYONE I meet in California is rude. Just a lot more than anywhere else. In a sense, I almost have a negative Gestalt for the state itself because of the impressions of strangers.
Though to refrain from ending off on a negative note, I do occasionally meet incredibly nice people in California. One time an older veteran stopped to say “hi” to me. After greeting him back, we made some small talk about the area and weather. In the same day, a cashier at the military commissary complimented my shirt and we talked about careers. It might sound silly, but that day was a bad day for me, and that more than cheered me up. Simple courtesy like that can mean a lot. People like them help me create more positive opinions of others and that makes it that much easier to be a nicer person yourself.