Friday, December 16, 2016

"We Need To Teach Ourselves To Look Beyond Initial Impressions"

How often do we see something that catches our eye and we are impressed - initially - only to find upon closer examination and study that it wasn't near what we thought it was after all?

Many designs are this way. We see a kitchen, bath, patio, backyard, or other area that we think is so well done. It is attractive, the colors are good, and it looks like it would be great to have such a room or area in our home. Then we look a little closer and realize that it has functionality issues - there are accessibility, traffic flow, and general usage concerns. Maybe using one area creates congestion or blocks another area from being used effectively. Suddenly, what seemed so attractive and desirable now is much less so to us - and to the people we might be working with that has such a design.

Looks can be deceiving. How often have we heard this!

The same is true from what we hear. How we hear something may depend on our general frame of mind, our attitude, a previous conversation, or a mental distraction that is filtering what we hear and how we interpret it. Sometimes, it's not what a client or colleague tells us but how we hear it that makes the difference. We can mishear something that never was intended to sound like or mean what we think it does.

Just as we have filters that cause us to interpret visual messages as well as what we hear, so do our clients and our strategic partners that are trying to help us evaluate a home or suggest effective solutions to alleviate concerns that the client has.

In fact, there are a couple of well-known visual games or puzzles that illustrate this point. Many of us have seen the black and white drawing that shows a profile of either a very old woman or an attractive young woman depending on how we look at it. There is a newer version of a dress that is either blue or tan depending on how we visually process information. In these examples, neither conclusion is wrong, but labeling the contrary opinion as incorrect is not right either - it literally is all in how we look at it.

When we walk into someone's home, or even before that as we arrive in their driveway, we might make assumptions about their income, physical abilities, neatness, and other characteristics about how they live and maintain their home that is not borne out once we go inside and actually meet and talk with them. There might be good explanations for why things look in disarray. Conversely, a showpiece on the outside might reveal quite a different story on the inside.


It's easy to form conclusions based on incomplete information, such as initial impressions, rumors, or a glancing comment. We might see the end result of something and make an incorrect assumption of how it got to that point. We must do our own due diligence by listening and watching what is going on so we can arrive at an informed opinion of the situation and what needs to be done rather than just making a quick assessment of how functional something is based on how it looks to us initially.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, C,E,A,C, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.