A Perspective on Perception

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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’.

* * *

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)

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About Earthianne

A lover of OSHO, non-fiction books, fun and laughter, music, philosophy, life, animals, world peace.

Posted on 04/06/2010, in Memories, Points of View and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. “I think.” is not always the same or similar to “I believe.”

    We may think or we may belive, but the question should always be, “Is it rational?”

    • I agree but I think there are people who are irrational and they’re unaware they’re being so. One can be rational at times and irrational at other times. I’ve been reading on my other interest, the mind, and it’s mind-boggling! I try to broaden my perspective and am learning not to be fixated/pedantic/fanatic on a belief or opinion or an idea (except about ‘perception’, lol). There’s still so much we don’t know.

      • Perception becomes KNOWLEDGE – when properly/scientifically evaluated, observed then confirmed, factually proven correct and true, unsuccessfully rebutted and knowledge community accepted.

  2. I completely agree. I think reality is constant for everyone, regardless of how individuals see it. To me, reality is what takes place, the facts, and perception is simply how you see or interpret it. I can’t understand how people can justify basing things like performance reviews, which are meant to be a factual evaluation of job performance, on what management or colleagues perceive.

    • You are absolutely right, Laura! Haha, BTW, our friend voted ‘my way’, but I’m still waiting for her comment. 🙂

  3. Oh wow….!

    Perception might not in ‘actual fact’ be reality… but it is reality in the mind of the perceiver (I think this might have been your male bosses point of view?).

    And while it SHOULD NOT be the duty of the perceiver to TALK to change their mind… how else would the perceiver know to engage in more TALK unless the perceived person engages with them…. in other words, if you think you are being perceived wrongly… get up off your arse and make sure others don’t have the wrong idea about you.

    You make your own fate. (maybe a poll on this one too?)

    As for performance reviews.. perception isn’t an aspect of quality, but sure is an aspect of performance, because if people won’t work well with you because of some mis-held perception that is allowed to fester and grow, then your work will suffer will it not?

    So whilst perception is not reality… people think it is the reality. They only know, what they know!

    • Pete, ouch! Lol

      Ok, so the one being perceived is expected to be the one to make an effort to correct what we are assuming to be the wrong perception of him/her. But if we look at it in another angle (excuse the example):

      Person A is perceived as arrogant. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, someone ‘bothered’ to communicate this to Person A. As far as Person A is concerned, he is not arrogant and he is behaving normally.

      So to follow the above argument that perception = reality (for the ‘perceiver’) therefore the ‘person being perceived’ should be the one to make an effort to change the perception, then Person A will have to modify his non-arrogant behaviour so Person B will feel better and will stop perceiving Person A as arrogant.

      In effect, we are forcing Person A to ‘conform’ to other people’s some time-dogmatic thinking/ideas on how to behave. Which may also mean we are REWARDING some people’s myopic thinking and ‘enabling’ them to continue with this (faulty) mode of thinking.

      BTW, that’s what we are led to believe, that we make our own destiny. Is there really such a thing as ‘freewill’? Perhaps another blog, at another time? 🙂

      And TY for commenting!

  4. I didn’t vote. Perception may OR may not be a reality. As you said ‘perception is not reality until proven otherwise‘. There will then be true perceptions and wrong perceptions. It MAY depend on how well or accurate the “perceptor” observes the “perceptee.”

    • As we know, sometimes there are underlying reasons for certain behaviors or actions. We often forget things aren’t always what they seem.

      So I think the better way is when one ‘perceives’ something from someone, one should hold their judgment until one knows better (and not to use what’s being perceived as a weapon to serve the perceiver’s own agenda, if any). Thanks Al!

      • Things will NEVER be what they SEEM! Things will be what they ARE! Sadly, we don’t always see things as they ARE; and that brings us to perception.

        A perception is always based on observation or behaviors or actions. If one acts differently than what he really is, then the perception MAY be wrong.

        Judgment is judgmental (pardon the pun) – it may never be right. “When one knows better” may not come — when is it “better?” It is still judgmental.

        Lastly, I didn’t realize that you were writing about “perception” in relation to it being a ‘weapon.’ I thought you were just debating whether it is “reality” or “not reality.”

        I don’t mean to debate [if you think I am, that’s your perception 🙂 ], so I’ll end here.

      • Any ‘behavior, action’ can have underlying reason(s). That’s why we should suspend judgment until we are wiser. Indefinitely, if that’s what it takes, lol. And I insist, it should be the perceiver’s job to do something about it (if necessary).

        A perception, whether correct or not, is in itself harmless. It’s when it’s used as a ‘weapon’ to someone’s detriment, that’s what makes it unfair.

        I wasn’t disputing your first comment. Anyway, I welcome debate, it’s fun! It’s the reason I asked people to say their piece but only a few are game enough (though it could be just my ‘perception’ – maybe they’re busy, no time, not interested, or no idea lol).

        But early indication of the result is that my side of the ‘argument’ is winning!! haha (jk)

        Thank you Al! I knew I could depend on you to ‘indulge’ me in this just-for-fun exercise, lol.

        BTW, are you in your side of the world this August? I’ll PM you later.

  5. ‘Perception’ is a very common every day language used by so many but in a different context ( everyone to itself)….its how you put it in a sentence in an appropriate way…
    Anyways, I agree with you..I know WHO this person was & I hope she is rotting somewhere right now..ha!ha!ha! I know she always based her negative views on your positive performance. You are rocking….GO GIRL!

    • oh, haha, she’s still around. Hopefully, we both learned something good from that experience. I disliked a few things but it’s all water under the bridge now.

  6. I really like your blog! That opera house picture rocks!

  7. You really love to debate; and you know how to ‘bait’ one to it.

    You wrote: “A perception, whether correct or not, is in itself harmless. It’s when it’s used as a ‘weapon’ to someone’s detriment, that’s what makes it unfair.”

    What if the perception is used to someone’s advancement? Like if one is promoted by a boss because of ‘positive’ (but wrong) perception. Does that make it FAIR?

    With this, I rest my case, your honor. 🙂

    • Very good point but, hang on, don’t go yet, lol.

      It’s not fair if one got sidestepped or got backstabbed because of it.

      Regardless, some of us learn on the job so it may not necessarily be a bad thing.

      The ‘unfairness’ refers to the person being wrongfully perceived.

      In your example, if the ‘perceiver’ made an incorrect perception and acted on it, he disadvantaged himself. But he only has himself to blame because he didn’t ‘find out, ask, talk, clarify, research, investigate, COMMUNICATE, discuss, dig deeper’ or get reliable referees.

      It’s a good thing there’s such a thing as ‘probationary period’. 🙂

  8. excellent question. our perceptions certainly color our realities. you might believe there is an objective reality. i don’t know if that’s true. i think we are confined, or perhaps, unleashed by our own perceptions of reality.

    so someone emotionally in-tune might have a different view of a person than someone who might be more, say, technically in-tune and less emotionally in-tune.

    now your boss from 11 years ago sounds like she just didn’t like you. and isn’t interesting that bosses, for the most part, are in fact so arrogant, as you coyly said, that they believe it behooves the employees to change their perceptions. in other words, the boss’s perception is that she doesn’t need to do anything to expand her own view of reality, which, of course, means that anything she thinks is correct and accurate. how convenient.

    the dictator’s mantra in corporate speak.

    what a great post. how fantastic to meecha:)

  9. No, she didn’t (though I’m really likeable!! Lol).

    Our common and respective perceptions often come from specific angles, and I don’t know if anyone is really able to view reality in 360 degrees. Uhmmm… you’re making me think re: objective perception. Like others here, you’ve added your own perspective which expanded my view on perception a little bit more.

    Thank you. I much appreciate your comments.

  10. Wow! Your blog is looking fabulous ….great content! I always thought, and it may be irrelevant to your article,
    that if I close my eyes, does everything still exist? Is it just something that I have perceived in my mind? I’m weird like that. Hey you have me in your blogroll, I’m very flattered by that …I really don’t know what to say….except may be thanks. You’re very kind. I really don’t deserve it. I got your DM on Twit ..I can’t find the link to Ed’s post. I will email you the link to his post. I’ll be looking for a guest poster soon …I”ll be in touch with you to discuss …ok?

    Continued Success!!!

  11. We each have our own ‘weirdness’. You’ll crack up if I tell you mine, lol.

    I found the link and I’ve posted it with my reply to Ed’s comment on my ‘Losing My Religion’ post.

    Thank you so much for your very nice words and for considering me (that’s my reading) for a possible guest posting slot. Look forward to hearing what you have in mind (or for even thinking I’m capable of doing it, lol).

  1. Pingback: A Perspective on Perception (via Earthianne) « Chicago Mac/PC Support

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