The Unconceived Notion





By Sreyashi Kochhar



It happened in my last flight to India. I must mention that I stay in the Middle East along with my husband. In my last solo flight to India, I had a mid-aged man sitting next to me on the window seat. I was on the aisle seat. I always try to exchange pleasantries with my co passenger. It just makes the next 5.5 hours of air time bearable. However, this man was seemingly impossible to greet.


He had boarded before me and he just wouldn’t look towards me. I made several futile attempts to strike a conversation but to vain. So, after few stances I just kept to myself with a book and didn’t think too much about him. He seemed like a typical advocate of the Middle Eastern patriarchal society where men consider talking to women as demeaning.


However, just before disembarking the flight, he looked towards me and said, “I’m Sorry”. I was confused as to what was he apologetic for. He continued that he tried to change his seat since he has previously travelled to India and knows that single women aren’t comfortable sitting next to single men. So, when he boarded the flight he tried to change seats after knowing that a single woman would be sitting next to him, but since the flight was full, he couldn’t be accommodated anywhere.


He deliberately avoided any conversation with me thinking I would be awkward but I assured him that wouldn’t have been the case with me since I’ve travelled around solo everywhere. He behaved that way so that just to keep me comfortable. I confessed what I thought of him initially and apologized too.


This event is very much still on my mind. It still feels significant. It kept coming back on my mind and over the next few days. I began to think of the situation in lot many ways. Could I have interpreted it differently? Of course! It’s all because of the pre-conceived notion or a perception that was imbibed in my mind.


“Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom.”

– Mary Browne


Why do we have such perceptions or pre-conceived notion and what are these? We all have our own ‘world’, our own way of looking at things and our own way of understanding them.


 A same situation may be interpreted by different people in different ways based on their judgments and evaluations. We are never aware of our perceptions or pre-conceived notion and therefore cannot help acting out of our assumptions.


Once these perceptions are formed, we just stop inquiring on the situation. While ideally, we should be reflecting on our awareness and consciousness on the situation.


People generally mask their true feelings and act in a way that shields their true emotions. They speak in a way that makes them socially acceptable. So, we must look beyond what is truly apparent and understand what’s beneath the surface.


At every chance you can, ask yourself, “What do I expect to happen here? Why do I expect that? Could something else happen?” Practicing awareness is probably the hardest task, as we are so used to simply reacting to things without thought. When we let go of our preconceived notions, the change we will see will be huge.


Do you ever realize how much can we achieve if we do set out without any pre-conceived notions? Many people do not even take the first step to what they want, only because of the perceptions that they hold. One thinks – it’s tough to lead a healthy lifestyle as projected by everyone around. He/she doesn’t ever take the first step towards it. While if he/shewould have been motivated seeing the slightest progress after adopting a healthy lifestyle. 


All the things are not what they seem. The ability to understand a person without holding any preconceived notion is not is not simple. It’s about matching what we see and hear to the situation in which it’s all happening and drawing possible conclusions. However, most people never go beyond what’s apparent.


Instead of having an uninterested co passenger sitting next to me for the 5.5 hours, I could have approached him with a friendly ‘Hello’ and initiated a small talk. It could have given me a chance to know what was bothering him and cleared his confusion.


One shouldn’t hold on just to our thoughts and notions; reflect on them, revaluate them to see what’s really happening. Not having any pre-conceived bias is the best way to be, but in case we can’t avoid them, just do not follow them blindly.


Blog By Shreyashi Kochhar