One of the inadvertent effects of meeting and interviewing people from different walks of life is that you can get sucked into their personalities if you let them. It's kind of like acting really - you get absorbed into another individual's character until you empathize with them so much that it seems like their thoughts and emotions are your own.
Honestly, it feels like my moral compass gets screwed up a bit after I start questioning my principles and compare my value system against their own. Is their way of thinking better than my own? Or vise-versa? The whole process of encountering someone with a different view of the world can be either:
- a little bit of both
And there lies the rub. It's a double-edged sword of sorts as you take in the good and bad parts of their lives. How can you write something meaningful if you insist on being detached from the person you're writing about? You really have no choice but to cross that barrier and honestly put yourself in his/her shoes.
Take this guy I met just today. This sixtysomething dude recounted the details of how he started his company from scratch, reached the peak of his success and then lost it all. Then, he rose from the ashes and made even more money than before. I spent the rest of the day subconsciously trying to feel what he might have felt at the lowest points in his life, which of course affected my emotions as well. As I drove back home, I also couldn't help but recreate and visualize the not-so-flattering things he did in the past. So much so that I didn't spend that much energy thinking about his achievements and milestones.
Sometimes I'm thinking, "Boy, and I thought I was screwed up." At other times though I'm telling myself, "Now THAT'S what I should be doing with MY life." Therefore, the challenge is to identify with someone's beliefs, experiences, values and other aspects of their humanity without letting it get to you.
The most positive approach to a situation like this is to treat it as a healthy exercise wherein you re-evaluate the things that are important to you. At the same time, you can also apply the positive traits of that other person and discard the other parts that don't apply to your own situation. What works for one guy won't necessarily do the same for someone else. In case it does however, why not be open enough to that other person's way of doing things?
What I'm really getting at I guess, is that meeting new people should always be a learning experience. Some part of me believes in fate, destiny, or whatever else you want to call it. As such, there is a reason why you run into the people that make up the cast from the movie of your life. You have the choice to use these encounters for your personal growth and to become a better human being.