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How well do you really know someone?

After spending time and effort trying to clear my mind of what I know and what I assume I know. It is a deceptively confounding exercise because most of what we know about someone is based on what we're told and what we have personally experienced. And, of those two, what we're told is totally unreliable and what we experience is only partially reliable. Only partly reliable, you ask?

Our minds are unreliable pattern recognition engines. We perceive incompletely through our senses and our mind, in its dislike for ambiguity, always draws in the missing bits. What data does my mind use to finish its sketch? Well, it uses my situational understanding of things.

If I trust someone or am in love, my mind tends to dot all of my I's with hearts and assume good intent, whether or not this is rational or provable. It is in fact possible to actively encourage people to trust you, if you're a mole. There are two ways, one is through active participation and the other is through invisibility.

Invisibility is the easiest the but still a little tricky. It requires that you're actively dull, unassuming while still being present and pleasant enough not to be the target of conjecture as to why you're so reclusive.

Actively encouraging people to trust you is necessary if you're going to ever integrate or ingratiate yourself into the community-at-large. A mole lives in the land of the sociopath and will quickly start being able to identify certain pathologies in social situations. However, that's neither here nor there.

And by actively encouraging, I don't mean getting people to like you. No, what is required is consistency, simplicity, repetition, routine, accessibility, affirmation, and mirroring.

Like I said before, the mind is a pattern-recognition machine. For example, our eyes are better at registering erratic movement than they are at noticing detail. This is so assure we will neither miss spotting prey or predator. Our brain masks out any visual data it can account for based on past experience so it can focus its resources on something important. This is true for all the physical senses. What's more, this is true for all the emotional senses as well.

We humans are a dizzyingly complex array of senses and nerve endings. We do not have the capacity to respond to everything all at once. The body constantly takes a inventory of its systems, both physically and mentally, and only flags on the abnormal or titillating.

It is too easy to become invisible to even the closest people in your life. It is frighteningly simple. Become predictable, a creature of habit, a man of few words, reassuring, loving, and routine. The only man our culture considers dangerous is the unpredictable man.

While this advice may be good for becoming the most trusted fellow in your community it is great for picking up on the people who have become completely invisible to you. Beware of the invisible men and women in your life -- and they are everywhere in their sameness, plainness, in their age and sadness, in their difference or in their incompatibility.

By working hard to notice everything and training your mind to break its lethargy and current assumptions, you will become more able to enhance your situational awareness. You will also become more attune at breaking your senses of some of their inconvenient shorthand.

This is only partially useful because then there is emotional perception. Listen to the people around you anew. Realize that you only ever know them for what they tell you, what you infer, what you assume, and what your personal experience with them has been in the past, all of which is completely unreliable. Most of which is the direct result of your brain brazenly sketching in the parts of your maps of these people based on some sort of impression you have of them from your interactions and personal feelings towards them: boss, love, mistress, wife, employee, staff, service worker, mother, child, etc.

The image that I find useful is the training exercise used to train rapid response teams to react to hostage situations. Under a hail or noise and in a busy hostile environment the shooter is required to quickly discern the hostage takers from the hostages. This exercise is used to develop perception, reaction, and response under fire. Since the difference between hostage and terrorist isn't always clear, it is important to cue on more than just dress, color, posture, or movement. It is important to train your senses to make fewer assumptions and to spend a couple extra hundreds of a second to verify the target as friendly or foe before holding or squeezing off that round.

When it comes to getting made or making someone it comes down to whether or not you're willing to spend that extra little amount of time verifying.

To quote Ronald Reagan, "Trust, but Verify."

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