My perception is my reality, not yours.
I thought about the subject of ‘perceptions’ a few days ago. Just going about my business doing the mundane task of laundry, I noticed a twig up on my laundry room window. It had been windy and rainy down here in south Texas for several days. I didn’t think much about it until taking a closer look. It wasn’t a twig at all, it was a Walking Stick! The photo I snapped didn’t come out very well, but nonetheless, it was there and moving slowly.
If I hadn’t bothered to make a finer examination, I wouldn’t have noticed it was actually a living creature. And isn’t that true for other things in life—we don’t scrutinize enough. We see what we want to see. I may not have control over a lot of things, but I certainly can make assumptions based upon what I choose to see and believe. It is my choice.
It is a well known fact that when several people see the same accident, they will describe it differently. When I have a conversation with someone, we both will experience it slightly (or maybe drastically) different. Both of us think we are correct in our recollection of what transpired as well as the tone, the feelings, and the intention of the other person. And it can become quite frustrating if they don’t see it the same way. We think—how can that be?
It’s because we each view our experiences, our conversations and our relationships through our own unique set of filters based upon our past. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong in a situation, just what we perceive it to be.
Remember the phrase, “rose colored glasses?” There is much truth to that description. Except, things aren’t always seen as rosy, they may be green or yellow or brown.
We are so quick to draw conclusions about why somebody says something or does something. These are our assumptions. And, more times than not, they are inaccurate! When we actually take the time to inquire, then really listen for complete comprehension, we gain a much clearer understanding as to why that person said something or took particular actions.
Living our lives always assuming we know why others behave or react the way they do can be problematic. It may create hurt feelings and devastate relationships if not addressed quickly. Talks intended for clarity are not always easy to have, but sooner rather than later is a good rule of thumb.
Do not start a clarification conversation with accusations. “You are so insensitive,” or “You shouldn’t have said that,” or “You’re such a jerk.” But rather share how it made you feel, using “I” types of statements. “When you said that, it made me feel…” or “My first thought after our conversation was…but I don’t want to make an assumption. Can you explain…”
There are times that we are right on with our assumptions. But so many times we are not. When you give someone the opportunity to explain, often you hear this response, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to give you that impression,” or “ That’s not what I meant.” Disaster or an inaccurate assumption that may have become a lifetime false belief could be averted.
In several instances during my life, I have made assumptions about what I have heard or observed. Many times they have been inaccurate. And, I only know that because I’ve asked…on some occasions. The dangerous part comes into play when we don’t ask and we go on assuming that our assessment is accurate. Then every interaction we have with that individual going forward is influenced by that incorrect assumption.
As humans, it is no secret that often we like to think we know all about another person. But how would we know what color their glasses are if we don’t ask for clarification?
So the next time you think you’ve got someone figured out solely based on an observation, or think you’ve assessed a situation properly by hearing a statement, or are certain how someone feels about you by the look on their face, just remember—what you perceive is what you believe. And, your perception becomes your reality. Why not have a little talk and find out the truth.
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