Effective Leadership By Mick Ukleja

Is Perception Reality?
Mick Ukleja

December 3rd, 2013 - “Perception is reality,” is a common phrase you often hear. But is it? When we first see something or somebody, the way we perceive it or them often determines how we think of them. Yet it’s important to understand that perception is subjective. Another way to say this is that it’s personal. The truth? We perceive people not the way they are, but the way we are.

If I’m a trusting person and I have an encounter with you, my tendency would be to perceive you as trusting and trustworthy. If I am a negative person, my encounter with you will tend to be negative in my perception. Who we are is usually projected as who the other person is perceived to be.

So perception is not as much about how we see others, but how we see ourselves. That gets back to the question, “is perception reality?” No. But when we act on that perception, then the attitude or subsequent behavior toward that situation or person becomes reality. We, in fact, create the reality from our subjective “perch.” So it’s not the perception but the resulting behavior that becomes reality. The real question becomes “how do I see myself?” If you see yourself in a positive light, you will tend to see others in a more positive way. We read other people‘s lives through our own lenses. When we are judgmental of others, it says something about ourselves. Are others worthy of forgiveness? This is often determined on how you view yourself. Do you understand the place of forgiveness in your own life? Or do you tend to prop up your conscience with self-righteousness? Do people deserve a second chance? Have we appreciated or understood our second chances? That says more about us personally than it does about the other person.

When you see someone and immediately perceive that they are not a likable person, it might be time for some self-talk. What is it you are pretending not to know about yourself that nudges you to perceive them that way? I’ve discovered that those conversations with myself are some of the best conversations I can have. With an in-depth dialogue, my point of view is revealed.

Humor, criticisms, or feelings are like sunglass lenses. They alter the shades of my perceptions to darker, lighter, brighter, grayer, or bluer. With awareness and practice we begin to educate and train ourselves to see the “brighter” side of people and of circumstances.

As humans we tend to transmit the same wave lengths we receive.

Perception is biased. Suspending my bias allows me to withhold opinions about the person and instead focus on the actions or – even better – the potential of the person.

What’s your point of view (P.O.V.)? Are people worthy of your acceptance? Do they have potential? Will you be able to get beyond the differences? Do you tend to polarize people into certain groups or categories? And what does this say about you? Are you able to encourage divergence, dissent, and diversity? Or do you lean towards dysfunction – where everyone has to look like, talk like, or think like you? The result is that people often see danger where there is only difference.

When we understand and approach life from this perspective, it becomes a personal transformation. And that’s where real growth and learning takes place. Rather than simply being subjective, we are now intentional. We see the brighter side of the sun. Those situations we face can actually get better instead of worse. The deal we are working on could go through instead of failing. That person we work with has value and is worthy of our respect. Nobody is perfect, and I’ll give them a second chance – or third – or fourth.

I am no longer looking at others through keyholes or between the cracks in the fence. I can fire up my hot air balloon and rise to the place where my view becomes expansive.

It’s about working to make my vantage point more panoramic. I begin to see others as more resilient, more kind-hearted, more heroic, and more worthy of my acceptance.

You’ve heard of hardening of the arteries. Beware of hardening of the categories.

Anais Nin said it well, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

(Mick Ukleja is a consultant, author, coach, keynote speaker and president of LeadershipTraq, a leadership consulting firm. His clients have included Fortune 500 corporations and non-profit organizations. Check his weekly blog at www.leadershiptraq.com.)