Perception is Not Reality
Conscious Communication: bringing communication up from "auto-pilot" and reactive, to thoughtful, responsive, and above all, intentional.
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There's an old expression that masters of illusion love to use: "perception is reality." Actually, in the cold light of day we find that perception is not reality. Unless confronted by conscious awareness, perception is what we react to, as if it was reality. Perception is a kind of story, made up of filtered memories, projections, assumptions, and most importantly interpretations of stimuli. We can perceive what is not present, or not perceive what is present. We see what we expect to see, don't see what is "off our radar," and emphasize or minimize in accordance with our beliefs and upbringing. What causes trouble is simply that perception gets promoted to "Truth," and we fall into the trap of defending it as such.
It's almost too cliché to bring up the ubiquitous car accident witnessed by five people, each of whom sees a different accident, except that it's a reality we need to accept. Our ability to perceive is not objective, as if through a camera lens. The interpretive aspect of our perceptions makes them very subjective. Where your grandmother might perceive you driving too fast, you might perceive her as driving too slowly.
In addition, we can only perceive a piece of any situation, so we tend to fill in the blanks with assumptions, and then promote the whole story to a truth. Somebody swerves, and we think they're driving crazy. Especially when we didn't see the puppy run into the road in front of them. Something is not invalidated just because it's outside of our perception. And yet, when we rise to defend this "truth," it doesn't occur to us that we're actually defending an interpretation. This is the context that our words live within.
This interpretation is the result of our perspective during the perception. Depending upon where you sit, you will see some things that somebody else might not, and vice versa. Perspective has an enormous impact on perception. Knowing that we can change our perspective, it follows that the perception will change along with it. Thus, perception is far from a fixed truth; perceptions are constantly in change and flux.
A Moving Target
Along with perceiving visual information, perception enters our communication on a regular basis. We are after all conveying our interpretation of events, feelings, or thoughts. The words we choose, the imagery we choose, and certainly the metaphors that make sense to us, are all dependent on our perception, which is in turn dependent on our changing perspectives. The process of jury selection is based on lawyers looking for people who will hear the same words and see the same evidence, and yet will share the lawyers' interpretations.
Were we infallible tape recorders, we'd have far fewer arguments, but we're not. We remember what we think we heard, and think we saw. There's also a little bit of a "Fudge Factor" in how we fill in blanks and gaps, as our memories tamper with objective truth. The other person's words can create a story more in-line with our own interpretations, changing all-important context and without checking in, we assume we understand what they meant.
A great example of this would be where someone's perspective is rooted in a lack of faith in themselves or others. This perspective tends to have an expectation of being disappointed or rejected. When that expectation is in place, the listener tends to hear rejection where there is none. The speaker having no idea that this is happening finds the listener's upset reaction to be illogical or irrational, and either dismisses it, or argues; either way fanning flames that are not helping clarify the communication.
Another common example is where we project our own negative feelings about ourselves on the other person, thinking or feeling that they have this negative opinion about us. That shapes how we hear what they are saying, and certainly not in an accurate way. We make their words fit our interpretation; twisting, omitting or adding entire phrases to change the intended meaning, and make us "right."
You've probably heard jokes about the exchange that goes, "you look really great today." "So what you're really saying is I look terrible the rest of the time?!" Unfortunately this is all too common. The receiver's self doubts obliterate the intended compliment.
All of these situations generally escalate rapidly and get so out of proportion that it's difficult to rein them in. I've seen business relationships disintegrate and people not speaking to one another when the initial flare-up was avoidable. The solution is once again that extra time and care that goes into Conscious Communication.
When we truly know ourselves, we can see where our triggers are. Being told what to do, criticism, self-esteem issues, or any of a number of factors become filters when we're listening to someone. When we're aware of those filters, we can remember the affect they have on us, and catch ourselves before we react.
That's where the rubber meets the road. Stopping ourselves when we recognize our filters interpreting someone's words is powerful juju in communication. This combined with the always important "check-in" can short-circuit the bomb before the timer even starts ticking. Once we're aware of our own context filters, it's easier to understand others reacting to our words as well.
Own Your Perception
Arguments have their use. By presenting different points of view, more overall light is shed on a topic, and both parties get a more complete picture.
Useless arguments ensue when people demand that another person abandons their own perspective to take on that of the other person. This is usually in the form of defending “truths” that are actually perceptions. By promoting a perception to a “truth,” we invalidate the other person’s perception, causing a reaction and a desire to defend.
The simple solution is to own your perception as a perception. This doesn’t make it less valid. It leaves room for the other person’s perception to be concurrent, and not invalidated. Merely by starting your sentence, “it seems to me” or “I feel like” or “I think,” we make enough room for multiple perspectives, which in fact gets us much closer to truth.
Conscious Communication - the podcast series
Personal Life Media - "Coaching the Life Coach:"
Interview for Entrepreneur Magazine Radio w/ Romanus Wolter
Interview Podcast for Evolutionary Radio w/ Jason McClain
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Ever want to create
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Got Blog? come visit the Blog. Rants and delvings for your entertainment.
Ever want to create
characters that were so believable, that people forgot they were
Welcome to the Conscious Communication Chronicle, sharing how Conscious Communication results in success, and how you can achieve yours. Enjoy!
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