Search for Speakers
Trainers and Consultants
Send this article to friends
For the Media
For Speakers, Trainers,
editor suggested by phone, "Let's meet for lunch. We'll discuss your
writing project then."
formed a mental picture. . . but one destined to be short-lived. For on that
Tuesday, when she walked up to greet me, I was glad she spoke first. I
wouldn't have identified her from the description. In fact, I'd glanced at
her once, then looked elsewhere.
seemed average height, with light brown hair, and not all that skinny
(which, of course, I couldn't mention).
has similar experiences. Written and spoken descriptions seem even less
reliable than weather forecasts and lottery tickets.
hear, "Great movie--you have to see it!" We rent the video, then
cut it off after ten minutes, muttering, "This movie got an
dislike the "super restaurant" a friend raved about. To you,
prices were too high, servers were slow and rude, and you'd rate the food
bland, at best.
a result, we have popularized statements like "Beauty is in the eye of
the beholder" and "One man's meat is another man's poison."
specialists attribute these diverse interpretations to perception. They
explain that each of us has a unique window to the world. Consequently, our
viewpoints are truly customized, like a contact lens prescription which
works for us, but not for the person standing next to us.
experiences shape perception. A Boston native will laugh at the Atlanta
weatherman's "frigid" forecast, when temperatures dip into the
40s. Bostonians wash their cars on those days.
person's needs alter perception. You've heard the advice, "Don't go
grocery shopping when you're hungry." You'll buy foods you'd skip when
shopping just after a meal. Also, think of driving past a bank sign and
seeing the time and temperature flashing alternately. Running late for an
appointment, you're likely to focus on the time. Heading for the beach,
you'll center on the temperature. In either case, the irrelevant numbers
might not "register" with you. If asked, you couldn't repeat them.
influences perception. Often we feel there's no exaggeration in John Gray's
title, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. As Gray states, many
male/female conflicts don't revolve around issues of right or wrong, just
recognition of opposite vantage points.
economic status alters perception. What, for instance, is your definition of
an expensive house? Think back to when your salary was one third or one half
of your current income. Your dollar figure for an expensive home was
radically different then, wasn't it? Throw in how housing prices have
escalated in the last twenty years, and you'll note another reason
characteristics play important roles. In the sixth grade, I learned that I'm
largely colorblind. Maybe the editor I met for lunch really was more of a
blonde than I thought. Also, were I shorter in stature, she could have fit
the "tall" depiction.
could add to the list of factors which shape our perception--age, various
roles we play, tradition, family values, national and ethnic origin,
education, religious beliefs, and more.
an important lesson here for dealing with our colleagues and with our
customers. In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin spoke to this point.
Late in life, he adopted a new way of dealing with people. Abandoning the
dogmatic style of his youth, he started using these phrases: "The way I
look at this," "It seems to me," and "I could be
mistaken, but . . . ."
adopting this approach, Franklin
noticed radical improvement in his communication efforts and in how he
related to others.
your looking glass--the porthole through which you see the world and its
inhabitants. Realize how and why your individual window is unlikely to match
another person's. Expect the differences in what each of you sees, and then
says. Allow for discrepancies--and learn from them.
old saying confirms Franklin's advice about perception: "Don't call the
world dirty because you forgot to clean your glasses."
articles & website © 1999-2002 Expert Magazine