Perception Is Reality but Who’s Reality?
Individual Maps of Reality – Ways in Which We Perceive the World
How we generate information about the world is called perception. When new information is compatible with your knowledge structures it is accepted; when it does not mesh with your pre-conceived ideas or past experience, it receives little consideration, is distorted or ignored.
Business Is All About Perception
Business – leadership, teamwork, motivation, value innovation, differentiation, marketing, etc. – is all about perception. The essence of leading, managing, marketing and selling is coming to grips with people’s perceptions.
“Perception is all there is…” writes Tom Peters. There is only one perceived reality, the way each of us chooses to perceive a communication, the value of a service, the value of a particular product feature, the quality of a product. And the same is true of other’s perceptions of us, too.
Most of your judgments result from decisional shortcuts you use to generate solutions that are good enough – most of the time. When you perceive a situation that looks familiar to you, doesn’t your past experience cause you to see the event in terms of what you expect? Doesn’t your limited span of attention lead you to categorize things by aspects that appear similar to what you already know?
“We are constantly bombarded with so much sensory information that it is impossible for us to pay attention to everything,” says Sandra Blakeslee, an award-winning science writer for the New York Times. “Our subconscious mind scans our environment and selects what it deems may be important for us to notice. Even then, people not only see things the way they are, they also tend to see what they expect to see, as well as what they want to see. Much of human perception is based not on information flowing into the brain from the outside world, but what the brain, based on previous experience, expects to happen next.”
Self and Communication
Your perception of others is the product of how you view yourself and is a direct reflection of the filters that you use to assimilate information about others. We all have filters of our experiences that are unique to us and our perception of others is impacted in a significant way by those experiences. This may explain why two people that are friends can meet the same person at the same time for the first time and have completely different opinions of that person.
You and I remember things better if you can relate it to self. In other words, when someone can take what you are saying, whether written, verbal or non-verbal, and relate it to some experience or something that relates to them in a personal way, it will be easier for them to remember what they have heard. This may explain why using case studies, examples and exercises help in a learning environment.
We tend to ignore that which contrasts our view of self. This may explain why people often will become very dogmatic in their views, or may become unmovable in certain situations.
The clues and cues that help you recognize your own and other people’s preferred thinking and communication styles are called “accessing cues,” because they help you access the way someone is processing whatever is happening around them.
Self-Awareness – the First Step to Influencing Others
Only by knowing yourself can you know other people and influence and share your experiences with them.
Great leaders, coaches and communicators don’t focus on their followers, coaches and audience. They have a high degree of self-awareness. We all have basic skills to lead, coach, or communicate; unfortunately, most of us have a few psychological blocks when it comes to applying those skills well and consistently. Knowing yourself will help you overcome your own blocks.
Self-concept is how I think and feel about myself. Our sense of self comes from our communication with others:
- What we look like and how they feel about us.
- Your self-concept is based on the values of the culture and the community you come from :
Self Concept is made of:
- Reflected Appraisals– Messages we get about ourselves from others. Often in terms of scripts.
- Social Comparisons– We compare ourselves to others and see how we measure up
- Self Perception– Using past experiences to see yourself in your own way.
- Self Esteem is how I value myself
- Self Efficacy is how I predict my success
Schema Theory– Mental structures that assemble chunks of remembered information, which in turn, works together to create meaning and understanding. In other words, “Existing pegs on which to hang information.” As you read and assimilate the following section, ask yourself, “How much impact is what I think of others and of myself having on my life? Is it positive, or could I improve in this area and make a significant difference in my life?”
- People Schema – Making general assumptions about an individual
- Role Schema– How you act when in a certain role
- Event Schema– Allows you to expect an event to take place a certain way
- Self-Schema Theory – a structure or frame work composed of various pieces of information that a person attributes to self, that helps a person develop a sense of self, guides a person’s actions, and facilitates the acquisition of storage of new information as it pertains to self.
- Basically, generalizations about self based on past that guides how you perceive the world as it pertains to you.
- People collect information that goes along with their established views
From the schemas that we have adapted, we build scripts for ourselves and we allow others to build scripts for us. This starts in childhood and carries into our adult lives. We are given lines to speak, like
- Say thank you.
- You’re a good boy!
- I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
- I’m always here for you.
- I’m proud of you.
- You have no sense of responsibility at all.
- You act as if the world owes you a living.
- I’m not going to put up with this for another minute.
- As long as you live in this house…
- Because I said so.
Messages related to feelings – We also are taught, and thus develop messages, that are related to feelings:
- Control your anger.
- Don’t lose your temper or you’ll kill your father. His heart can’t take it.
- Talk softly. Don’t raise your voice.
- Children should be seen and not heard.
- Always smiling, regardless of what happens.
- Don’t let your feelings show.
- Do not talk back.
- Don’t get on a high horse.
- Be a nice girl and hush crying.
- You may be unhappy, but you don’t have to let anyone know it.
Messages related to values – Along with feelings we are also given scripts as they relate to our values and how we should be as a person:
- Honesty is always the best policy.
- An evil thought is the same as an evil deed.
- If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
- Any job worth doing is worth doing right.
- Be patient with yourself.
- You should not fail because you are capable of everything.
- Hitch your wagon to a star.
- He can who thinks he can.
- Honor thy father and mother.
Messages related to sexual identification – Our success or failure with regards to our sexual identification is also scripted for us:
- If you are not a good wife, you are a failure.
- Nice girls don’t smoke.
- Ladies are reserved and don’t use strong language.
- A woman must not enjoy food.
- Men don’t cry.
- Sex is a man’s pleasure and a woman’s duty.
Messages of Self-recrimination – These scripts we can impact in a positive way by paying attention to what we are saying to ourselves about ourselves. We can learn to be comfortable with who we are and just be happy “in our own skin.”
- I’d look great if I was ten pounds thinner.
- Why do I do that?
- I’ve done so many awful things.
- I have no special talent-nothing to give.
- Maybe I can do that, but probably not.
- I shouldn’t hurt my family when they’ve done so much for me.
Self-fulfilling Prophesies–events or actions that occur because we and other people have expected them. For instance, if you have been told something long enough and frequently enough, you begin to believe it about yourself and then your behavior will reflect that belief. Think about some of the following:
- You’ll never amount to anything.
- You’re a good student.
- You are stupid.
- You are too fat/thin.
- You can be whatever you decide you want to be.
Social Comparisons– we compare ourselves to others to see how we measure up.
Self-Perception–the way you see yourself.
Gender connection— Michael Schwalbe and Clifford Staples found men and women form self concept differently.
Perception is how you look at others and the world around you. How you look at the world depends on what you think of yourself.
So, whose reality is it? Hopefully, you have learned today that the answer is, really, “it depends.” There are many things that determine both reality and perception, both yours and others, and it really does pay to have an open mind. It is also important to ask yourself, “What is it that I don’t know about this situation?” This simple question has saved me many hours of stress and worry when in a difficult situation. Remember that perception is reality, and that it depends on whose eyes you are looking through!
I am a Personal and Executive Coach and I have some openings for new clients. I offer group coaching and individual coaching. I have some slots open for coaching in both my individual coaching and group coaching classes. As always I offer a FREE 60 minute coaching session so that you can see if coaching can benefit you. If you are interested, go to my online calendar and choose the date and time that works best for you. Once you have done that, both of us will receive an email invite with the JoinMe conference call details included in it. That’s how easy it is! So go do it now before all the slots are taken!
I wish you much success in determining the reality of your perception!