Everyone has their quirks — for Lady Gaga it’s wearing meat dresses, and for your clients, it’s something else. Either way, everyone deserves a chance to be heard before they’re judged. Sometimes, it’s best to forego preconceived notions and approach people and situations with a clean slate. Let their actions — not their appearance — formulate your opinions. Here’s why.

Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent the past six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday.

Flamboyant, nutcase, confident, weirdo, showman, public relations genius, public relations moron, performer, train wreck, outrageous, talented but oh-so-odd.

I suspect all those words and phrases have been used to describe Lady Gaga at one point or another.

I know what you must be thinking: “Lady Gaga? Really? You’re about to write a column on Lady Gaga? And tie that into life and real estate? This I have to see.”

OK, OK. Listen, anyone who knows me at all probably realizes I’m not exactly the demographic Lady Gaga typically attracts to her constantly-expanding fan base. Although I tend to migrate toward classic rock and singer-songwriter genres most often, I do have a pretty mixed and varied taste in music — much of what I listen to depends on what kind of mood I’m in.

But I don’t think I have ever been in the mood to fire up Lady Gaga.

Dance/electronica/techno is high up my list of least favorite music genres. And I’ll be honest, sometimes I struggle just getting past some of the over-the-top outfits Gaga wears. They’re distracting and sometimes goofy, and I prefer not to be distracted when I’m watching a performer.

But that’s just me. Your mileage may vary.

Almost eight years ago, my friend Bill Risser — frequent Inman Connect Ambassador, Inman contributor, all-around good human also of varied and eclectic musical taste — asked me if I’d heard Howard Stern’s interview of Lady Gaga and her subsequent live performance of “The Edge of Glory” on Stern’s show.

“Dude. Gaga? Seriously?” was my initial reaction. I vaguely recall watching Gaga’s performance of “The Edge of Glory” on American Idol that season. (Yeah, I watch Idol.) I could only vaguely recall her act because I watched about 30 seconds before hitting fast forward on the DVR. Again, I couldn’t get past the headdress she was sporting. I couldn’t  take the performance seriously.

But I trust Bill’s take on most things music, so I found the video. Regardless of your opinion of Lady Gaga, take five minutes to watch this. Trust me, it’s worth it:

What’s Gaga got to do with it?

Wackiness aside, Gaga’s got talent. Loads of it. You don’t get accepted into The Juilliard School at the age of 11 unless you have exceptional talent. You don’t sell 30 million albums and win six Grammy’s unless you have exceptional talent.

But still, I couldn’t watch her. Primarily because of the way she dresses.

Where am I going with this?

Preconceived notions. I have them, you have them, we all have them. If you say you don’t, I think you’re lying — or at least fooling yourself. We’re human beings, and as such, we are going to judge. We make decisions and act based on the way people look, what they drive, how they dress or how much money they make.

We judge based on how they talk, their intelligence level and even their weight — and the list goes on. For God’s sake, we judge people by what they say and how they act on Twitter. And dare I say a lot of people out there will hold preconceived notions about someone based solely on the color of their skin.

Sometimes we even listen to other people’s preconceived notions and let them think for us. That’s crazy talk! But it’s true, isn’t it?

The negative potential of preconceived notions

I did it with Lady Gaga. I’ve seen the pictures. We probably all remember the news about her wearing a “meat dress” at the MTV Video Music Awards. I fast-forwarded through her performance on Idol.

In other words, I judged her based solely on what she wore and how she appears to act. I wrote her off — just because I thought she was a weirdo.

And she may well be a weirdo. I don’t know her. I know nothing about her private life, and that is none of my business anyway.

If she is a weirdo, she is a thoroughly talented weirdo.

That is a fact that escaped me until I watched that video. Until I set my preconceived notions aside and just listened.

No, I won’t be filling up my Spotify playlists with the Gaga catalog. Her general style just isn’t my thing. (Release an EP of her solo stuff sitting behind a piano and I’ll stream that all day long.) I do respect her talent, though — it’s undeniable.

As I chew on these thoughts of preconceived notions today, some questions come to mind: How much business do we lose due to our preconceived notions? How many potential friendships are slipping by without ever having been given a chance to develop?

Ever gotten a call or email from a potential homebuyer and thought to yourself, this guy’s practically illiterate — he can’t buy a home. Ever read something someone wrote or heard some remark and thought, wow, they are clueless!

Ever gone to email someone and you notice an aol.com email address? Did you say to yourself, “Great, zero technical skills — they probably don’t know how to read or answer email.” That’s a preconceived notion, and one that really serves no purpose. Best to just deal with the issue at hand and not be bothered with how a simple email address might affect the situation.

Yes, you are going to make judgments on people, places and things. Some of those will be snap judgments — some need to be snap judgments. But sometimes it is prudent to forego those preconceived notions, to approach people and situations with a clean slate. Let their actions formulate what you are going to do — not the way they look, what they drive or which email service they use.

I cannot sit here behind this keyboard and tell you to how to act, or to not judge people. It’s not my place to do that. What I can tell you is this: The next time I start to have a preconceived notion about someone — and I will — I’m going to think about Lady Gaga. Not visualizing her dressed in slabs of beef wearing three-foot headdresses, but about her sitting behind a piano and singing her ass off.

You never know what someone is capable of until you give them a fair chance.

Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree in Seattle, as well as the mastermind behind Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty.

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