We talk about deep people and shallow people all the time, but what does it really mean to be deep and how can we cultivate this depth?
One of the dictionary definitions of deep is profound. The definition of profound is entering deeply into subjects of thought or knowledge, or, having deep insight or understanding. Shallow, on the other hand, means superficial or lacking depth. So being a deep person means having profound insights and understanding, while being a shallow person indicates a superficial understanding and lack of insight. But what does this mean for our lives and the way we relate to the world and other people? And how can we try to be deep rather than shallow people?
Of course, not everyone can have a deep knowledge and understanding about everything. No one would say a person was shallow just because they didn’t understand quantum mechanics. So what do we really mean when we describe people as shallow or deep?
Here are five ways deep people behave differently from shallow people:
1. Deep people see beyond appearances
Often we use the example of shallow people making judgments based on appearances. So someone who wouldn’t be friends with a person who wasn’t rich or good-looking would be described as shallow. We usually think of deep people as being more interested in other people because of their values rather than their appearance. Deep thinkers can look beyond surface appearances and appreciate others for less tangible qualities such as kindness, compassion, and wisdom.
2. Deep people don’t believe everything they hear or read
Another example of what we regard as shallow behavior is those who believe everything they read or hear without applying critical thinking or deep understanding. Deep people don’t necessarily believe what they hear, especially if it goes against their values. This is why deep people find gossip and misinformation so upsetting. They know how damaging these shallow views can be. Deep people look behind the news stories and gossip. They question why this information is being shared in this way and what purpose it serves.
3. Deep people listen more than they speak
The old English phrase ‘A shallow brook babbles the loudest’ is a great metaphor for the difference between shallow people and deep people. If we spend all of our time making noise, we can’t hear other people’s ideas and opinions. When all we do is regurgitate our existing opinions we can never learn anything new. This is a barrier to deeper understanding. Another phrase, ‘two ears for listening, one mouth for speaking’ is a good motto to live by if we want to cultivate depth in ourselves.
4. Deep people think through the consequences of their behavior
Shallow people sometimes fail to understand how their words and actions affect others. Everything we do has an impact on others and, while we need to be true to ourselves, there is no excuse for hurting others. Have you ever heard someone make a nasty comment, but they excuse themselves by saying they are just being ‘honest’, or ‘true to themselves’ or ‘authentic’? Whenever I am tempted to do this, I remember what my mother used to say to me – ‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’. Our words can wound others deeply so we should be very careful how we use them. Our actions also reflect the people we are, so if we aspire to be deep people, we should act with integrity and responsibility.
5. Deep people try to get past their egos
Deep people understand that often our behavior can be driven by an egoic need to be better than others. Sometimes, we put others down in order to make ourselves feel better. Usually, the urge to criticize comes from a feeling of not being good enough ourselves. For example, when we see someone who is overweight, we might criticize him or her, but usually, we do this only if we have issues around weight ourselves. Another example is when we see someone being a ‘bad parent’. Internally, we feel relief: we might not be perfect parents but at least we are not as bad as that person! Deep people can often look past these insecurities so they can show compassion to those who are struggling rather than judging them.
Let’s face it. None of us are perfect, deep, spiritual beings. We are human and we make mistakes. We judge others and criticize them from time to time. However, cultivating deeper ways of speaking and behaving in the world can benefit us and those around us. In choosing compassion rather than judgment it can help to remember the Native American phrase ‘never judge a man until you have walked two moons (months) in his moccasins (shoes)’. We can never know another human being’s experiences so we can never know how we might behave in similar circumstances. Therefore, to be truly ‘deep people’ we should try to cultivate deep empathy and compassion for others.
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