When I was a kid, my best friend’s mother said to me, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” She has a wonderful habit of saying the most profound things that stick with people. Not many people have the ability to completely change someone’s entire outlook by uttering a single sentence, but she does and she’s done it to me about ten thousand times. I’m certain that if she hadn’t been in my life for the last fifteen years, I would be an entirely different person…and not in a good way.

My mother is pretty much the polar opposite of my best friend’s mother. My best friend’s mother is very nurturing, optimistic, spiritual, laid back, understanding, and creative. My mother is emotionally isolated, distrustful, pragmatic, a perfectionist, a bit high strung, and a control freak. I’m not saying these are bad traits to have (especially since I inherited all of them, most to a more severe degree), I’m just noting the differences between the two of them. When I was a kid, my mom said to me, “All people are liars whether they realize it or not. Don’t trust anyone. Everyone is out to screw everyone else.”

Essentially, they both said the same thing, but in different language. The lesson is still the same: Perception is subjective, on behalf of the witness, the messenger, and the person that experienced whatever is being discussed or related directly. Your perception of their perception is also subjective, relative to your life experience, your knowledge, and any personal biases you may have. There is no “truth” except in dealing with facts. You will never know what anybody’s real motivations are behind anything they say or do because you aren’t them. All you or anybody else can do is speculate, and, even though it’s the best we can do…speculation is worth garbage.

In our personal and professional lives, we do a lot of speculating about others. Next to self-awareness and the ability to introspect, it’s what separates us from animals. It’s natural to analyze others…but there’s no reason to share your hypotheses with anyone else. Ever.

I’m bringing this up in hopes that you will take this piece of wisdom and apply it to your life the way I have. What’s spoken to me in confidence is never uttered to another human being, regardless of how that friendship may deteriorate. What’s communicated to me by others about others is absorbed, but given no weight until I see it for myself.

I’m not saying I’m a saint. I have a lot of faults. I’m an elitist and a compulsive perfectionist. I’m very slow to trust and often use my vocabulary and intelligence to keep others at a distance. I’m emotionless and generally apathetic. I have extremely high expectations of others. I am a control freak. I am brutally honest and have absolutely no remorse where that’s concerned. I abuse commas like a son of a bitch and I speak profanity like it’s my fucking native language.

Do I form judgments? Definitely.

I may leave an unpleasant exchange thinking, “This person is a complete ass.” I know many (seriously, many) people have walked away from me thinking, “What a bitch.” Just as they have no idea what I’ve experienced that made me the way I am, I have no idea what others have gone through. Regardless of what impression I form of a person, I always remember that any conclusions I’ve come to are completely uneducated guesses and try to keep an open mind.

I’ve been called a lot of things (mostly things like “weird” and “bitch”), but “gossip” certainly isn’t one of them. It’s deplorable and immature. It contributes nothing. It is a detrimental activity reserved for unintelligent, malicious, and/or jealous people that have nothing better to do. Productive adults have more appropriate things to do with their valuable time than spread rumors, speculate, and spread vitriol about things that do not concern them. Remember this next time you’re in the back room at your salon.

Now please…everyone shut the hell up about Treyvon and Zimmerman. You weren’t there. You don’t know either of them. It’s ended. Move on. Yes, this entire post is my way of expressing how sick I am of hearing about it, lol.

EDIT: I feel like I should add that people need to realize when they’re being manipulated. When someone is trying to convince you that something happened a certain way, try and figure out what they have to gain by convincing you of that. Sometimes, it’s just personal satisfaction. Where the media is concerned, it’s generally political. Where advertisements are concerned, it’s profit. If you can’t identify a motivating factor, chances are that the person just holds strong convictions regarding the issue. Whatever the motivations are of the people constantly harping on this Zimmerman/Treyvon thing: fucking stop. I can’t handle it anymore.

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Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of the book The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and the blog This Ugly Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.