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Perception is Reality – or is it?

I expect you have heard the expression “perception is reality”, which essentially refers to a mental impression we have of something. And these perceptions define how we see that something – and how we react. The thing is, perceptions might not be the truth; they are not necessarily reality. When we allow them to become our reality they influence how we look at things and others’ actions without a lot of thought to the range of other possible interpretations. Perceptions not thought out have a huge impact on how and what we process, focus on, remember, interpret, understand, decide about, and act on.

Our perceptions are rooted in many things, including our values, needs, hopes, attitudes, beliefs and other aspects of  who we are, what’s important to us, how we live, in the ways we relate and communicate, and so on. When we are interacting with others, at some level of consciousness, we take their messages at face value and trust they hear us as we mean our messages to be. In the usual course then, in our day to day interactions, we and others deliver and receive messages without incident. For the most part, we accurately perceive what is being conveyed and check things out if not.

When matters become conflictual and we are provoked by something another is saying or doing (or they become triggered by something we are saying or doing) what we hear and what is meant becomes skewed. As things become increasingly heated, the likelihood of misinterpreting our exchanges increases. At these times, we tend to experience messages as undermining us and our values, needs, or aspects of our identity. We may justify our negative reactions and escalating emotions by saying our perceptions are reality and accordingly, we find fault with the other person and make self-serving excuses for what we said or did in response (in retaliation even). In other words, we act on our assumptions about the other person (such as their motives) without checking out whether our perceptions are, in fact, the reality of what was meant, or the reality we chose to believe instead.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to consider an interpersonal  conflict in which you are perceiving messages from the other person as truths though you are not absolutely sure about their intent.

  • What is the situation about? What did the other person say or do that provoked you?
  • What is your perception about the other person’s reason for this (your answer to the above questions)?
  • What other possibilities might there be for the other person’s words, actions etc.?
  • If the other person heard you answer the above two questions, what other reasons might they offer?
  • What, if anything, do you question about your perceptions about the other person? That is, if there is something you are not absolutely sure about regarding them and their reasons for saying or doing what provoked you what might that be?
  • How did you respond to the other person when they provoked you? How did they react to you at that time?
  • What do you suppose the other person might be attributing to you about the exchange you two had?
  • What part of this perception (in answer to the above question) is accurate? What is not?
  • What do you know for sure about the other person’s motives for their words, actions, etc.? What don’t you know?
  • What is the truth about your words or actions that the other person does not understand or does not know?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

#conflict management

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