Sometimes I surprise myself by how I react when I see someone taller than me.
In Australia the average height for men is 176 cm and for women it’s 162 cm. So, standing at 196 cm (20 – 30 cm above average) I consider myself quite tall and very rarely (on a day-to-day basis) do I see someone taller than me. When I finally do see someone significantly taller than me my initial thought is “wow, that person is so tall” and I find my reaction is usually (depending on the situation and person) a combination of the following:
- Intimidation / threat
- Instant brotherhood / understanding
- Jealousy / resentment
Intimidation / Threat
Whenever I see someone taller than myself, regardless if I end up interacting with them or not, I end up checking my posture, straightening myself up and standing tall. On a psychological level I think the sight of someone taller than me is perceived as a threat so naturally, going by instinct, I make myself appear tall too. I can best explain this as a “there can only be one” reaction (like in the movie Highlander). Whilst there are many threats in the world, being the tallest in your own ‘world’ for most of the time does not prepare you to deal with someone else being taller and potentially intimidating. Very rarely do I feel short, but when I do (when the height difference is noticeable), I can appreciate how my friends (or strangers) must feel around me.
Brotherhood / Understanding
When I see a tall person from afar and we make eye contact and acknowledge each other and our height we instantly form this ‘weird’ sort of understanding. An understanding that the other person also stands out from the crowd, gets asked the same height related questions all the time and has similar struggles with day-to-day activities (e.g. finding a comfortable seat on the bus). As a result, striking up a conversation with them is effortless. A simple comment about a tall person related problem is all it usually takes to form an instant “tall brotherhood”.
Jealousy / Resentment
Being tall comes with many advantages and associated benefits (in a previous post I listed the top 5 reasons why being tall is awesome, you can read about it here). So, knowing how great it is to be tall, when I see someone taller than me I get slightly jealous sometimes knowing that there is someone else that has even more of an advantage than me in certain things. Sounds a bit silly, I know, but I can’t help it.
Once, whilst on holidays in America, I ended staying in the same hotel as the wrestler The Great Khali. I got into the elevator one morning and there he was, all 7’1″ of him (and his muscles) – next to him I looked tiny! I was genuinely shocked; this was the first time I had ever seen someone significantly taller (and larger) than me. I didn’t know what to say (asking a pro wrestler how the weather is up there did not seem like a good idea) so like a fool I just stared at him. For a long time afterwards I couldn’t believe what I saw and to this day I still remember that moment like it was yesterday. Perhaps the shock and disbelief of seeing someone significantly taller explains some of the reactions I got when I recently went on holidays to Japan (average height for Japanese men is 171.5 cm).
I guess my reaction to other tall people says a lot about me and my personality. Other tall people may react completely differently so I’d be interested to hear how you react and feel when you see someone taller? Let me know in the comments below.
Stand tall and be proud.