Getting it

In our lives, we're consistently meeting new people. We meet people at work, at the bar, in the street, at school; virtually anywhere. In these interactions we tend to make pretty quick initial judgements about people, which I think it pretty normal. They might be funny, awkward, polite, kind, boring or aggressive. But sometimes you meet a person and you know straight away: this person gets it.

I will explain what that phrase means to me, but I have a feeling that most people already understand it within themselves. Some people just get it, they seem to be on the same wavelength as you. It's often something small; it might be a joke or comment they make or an insightful or curious question they ask, but it can make it seem that this person operates in a pretty similar way to yourself. Someone might ask me 'have you met such-and-such?' and I might respond with something like 'yeah, they're cool, he/she gets it.'

It may be such a funny, intangible, abstract feeling that can be difficult to put your finger on exactly what it means but it is real to me and I'm willing to bet that it's real for you too. Part of what makes this so interesting to me is that I'm sure that for each person what makes someone new set off these sensors is completely different.

In my case, I think I relate to:

  • a person's sense of curiosity
  • a dry or sharp sense of humour
  • some knowledge of pop culture or understanding of topical things
  • any sign that a person has a bit of a pedantic or obsessive streak about seemingly inconsequential things
  • a speed of mind and thought or
  • a generally open and thoughtful approach to life.

I think what makes understanding these values interesting is that they tell us a lot about our own personalities and priorities. These are things I value in myself and therefore enjoy seeing reflected back to me in other people.

The other part of this, probably just as important as this sense of shared interests and traits, is an understanding of our shared rules or broadly speaking, our self-constructed 'guidelines for living'. We all have created a set of rules, behaviours and processes in our minds to guide our daily actions, and we can sense someone else responding to similar situations in ways that we can relate to. For instance, I think that taking a photo of yourself and publishing it online is a bit narcissistic and trivial and that punctuation and grammar is a really important part of even relatively informal communication, so when I can establish that someone also feels this way about punctuation it often takes on grander significance.

Our lizard brains say:

'This person operates by similar rules to me in their daily life; they think about things in a similar way to me.'

Our human brains say:

'This person gets it. This person is cool/interesting/thoughtful/attractive/genuine.'

I think the idea that we are always looking for people who share the same values, traits and frame of reference as ourselves is an interesting and profound one. I'd like to think that many of the people I come across in my life speak to me and think, 'yep, he gets it.' I think all of this applies to all my friends. I like to think that if you're here reading this site regularly and we don't know each other that if we were to meet, we'd get that sense about one another too. Next time you meet some new that gets it, pull on the thread. Try to figure out what exactly it is that you have established a seemingly instant connection with this other person. You might learn a lot about yourself by doing so.