A Perspective on Perception
Sometimes, an unfair occurrence results in a sequence of events which then culminate in an unexpected outcome.
One of my ex-managers, the only one ever to give me a negative work performance review, used ‘perception’ as her basis for her review.
This led me to write a strong rebuff on her reasons for doing so > which led me to show a colleague the content of my response > which prompted my colleague to suggest to me that I should write (be an author) > which fuelled my secret dream to creatively use written words to express and communicate my thoughts or stories.
About 15 years later, here I am, blogging about ‘perception’.
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Perception is defined by Wikipedia as the process of attaining awareness and understanding using our five senses and our psyche (imagination, conscience, intellect and memory.)
But when doing this, how do you make sure:
• your imagination isn’t running amok?
• your conscience understands and accepts non-external factors?
• your intellect is acute enough to see what’s happening underneath the surface?
• your memory isn’t playing tricks on you?
There are two opposing views on ‘Perception’:
Perception is reality versus
Perception is NOT reality.
I'm a proponent of the latter view.
My perspective on perception, at least in the context of the two examples below, is that it’s an observation or a belief of something that appears to the observer as real but, without knowing the facts, more often isn’t.
I’ll give you two examples based on real-life events in my past. Obviously, there is more to these stories but for the sake of this blog I won’t go into every detail.
1) At work, I’ve had consistently good performance reviews from my managers. However, one ex-manager, the only one that I didn’t get along with (so far), once included some negative reviews which were based on ‘perception’.
My ex-manager’s contention was that there was a ‘perception’ from others of my discontent and she herself ‘sensed’ a lack of interest and motivation on my part (among other things). I countered by saying that I started a major project on my own accord, produced and completed it above the expected standards which she herself concurred, and delivered on time. Surely, I asked, those are not the actions of a discontented, unmotivated, disinterested person?
I insisted to her that those allegations are false. She must have thought I would just timidly sign and agree to her claims. She disliked me all the more after this but I felt she was being subjective and used hearsays in my performance evaluation. What particularly irked me is those ‘perceptions’ were sprung on me without ever communicating them to me at anytime. From what I know now about ‘leadership’, a good leader should provide regular feedback to his/her staff and not wait till performance appraisal time to do so.
2) Funnily enough, 11 years after this incident, I found myself in a somewhat similar predicament, having another discussion about perception with another manager, though in a friendlier and supportive environment.
My then boss’ view is perception is reality, which I vehemently opposed, drawing from my previous experience.
As he walked by my desk, I grabbed the opportunity to let him know I was getting the impression in our just-held team meeting that he thought I wasn’t happy to do my part of a certain project. He said, ‘Yes, that is the perception.’ So my hunch was correct but, lol… big mistake… his mention of the word ‘perception’ triggered another memory, a familiar, uneasy feeling. I couldn’t let it go.
Unknown to him (I didn’t mention this to him, of course), I’m very ‘experienced’ when it comes to arguing about perception. In fact, I still have a copy of my response I wrote to my other ex-manager all those years ago.
With enough conviction, I replied, ‘I have a problem with perception… because it’s not reality!’ I was feeling déjà vu as I was saying this!
I suggested that, in this second incident, those people having this perception of me should think that if I didn’t want to be involved, I wouldn’t have spent a lot of time writing a few emails, asking questions about the project. Is this the action, I asked, of someone who didn’t want to be involved?
My female ex-manager argued that one needs to look at why people have these perceptions and work with them to change the perceptions. If this was handled properly, I’d probably agree. But in the first incident, for what gain and to what end should I have done this? To appease ignorant, narrow-minded, judgmental, jumping-to-conclusions, shallow-minded, biased or don’t-know-anything-better individuals?
And to include ‘perceptions’ in performance evaluations is idiocy, in my opinion, unless you back it up with solid evidence.
My male ex-boss also had/has this conviction that it is the responsibility of the person being ‘perceived’ to change the perception. I tried to convince him that people should start learning to ‘think outside the square’, that they should change their way of thinking. For me, the onus is on the one ‘perceiving’ to find out the truth.
He asked me, how do you change the perception? I said, ‘by TALKing’. He exclaimed ‘BINGO’!
He was obviously very amused that I, known for being too quiet, knew the obvious answer. However, my point was the person ‘perceiving’ or ‘observing’ should initiate the clearing of their issues, not the other way around.
I gave him an example of him having the perception of being ‘arrogant’ (not my opinion). He took it to mean that’s what I thought of him. He wasn’t amused that I had to use that out of all the examples that I could cite. You could say it isn’t a fair perception, but it’s a good thing that I don’t believe perception is reality. 🙂
Suddenly, I had an insight. ‘You know what’s the problem here?,’ I said to my boss. Now I know what’s the problem! People here have no sense of humour!’ I seriously think some conflicts arise because human beings are just too serious and too hard on each other.
Passionately defending our side of the argument, my boss and I felt equally exhausted at the end of our conversation, or should I say ‘debate’. Each of us probably believing we emerged ‘victorious’ over the other.
Or how about we say ‘perception is not reality until proven otherwise‘? How’s that for a compromise?
The above two incidents highlight the unfairness of having the wrong perceptions on people (not the least because I was a ‘victim’ of it, twice!), misinterpreting people’s actions (or sometimes non-action) or intentions.
Folks, I ask you: let us not jump to conclusions. Let us not read too much between the lines or read things that may not be there. Let’s try to be fair.
First: find out, ask, talk, clarify, research, investigate, COMMUNICATE, discuss, dig deeper, or do what you have to do to clear things up and/or discover if what you have in mind is an actual fact or, in all likelihood, just a misperception.
So which side are you on?
To help settle this issue, please take a moment to complete the poll and feel free to state your reason(s). As always, your comments are welcome and appreciated.
Next topic: Losing My Religion (part 3)