The Power of Perception: by Bruce Christopher

How what you see IS what you get.

It has been said that “Perception IS Reality.”   We use our perceptions as a way to navigate through our world. Our perceptions form the foundation of what we call reality. But the reality is that many of our perceptions which we take for granted are in actuality illusions. For example, there is more space than mass in a solid oak table. Yet, we perceive it as being very dense and substantial. Glass is actually a liquid and is flowing from the top of the window frame to the bottom. Yet, we certainly don’t see its movement. These scientific facts demonstrate that we live according to our perceptions in the physical world.

When it comes to our relationships with people, our perceptions play an even more significant role. Our perceptions about others and ourselves can often create illusions, which hinder our success and our ability to perform at the highest level of achievement.   How we perceive our co-workers, customers, teammates, and all the people around us has a profound impact on their (and our) morale, motivation, and performance.

For example, imagine you coming to your new place of work; it is your first day, and you would like to meet your new boss and get off on the right foot. So, in anticipation, you approach her office – knock on her door, stick your head in and say, “Good morning Ms. Warren. I just wanted to say how happy I am to be working for you in this department. Thank you for hiring me to be a part of the team.”


Whew…’what was that all about’ you think to yourself.

At this point, you are at a moment of interpretation and perception – because you can see your boss’s behavior in one of two ways. Our brains want to make sense of what is going on around us, and so we ask ourselves – “Why did she do that?”

First, you may say to yourself, “Wow, she must really be a jerk.” Or second, you may say to yourself, “Well, I guess she must be having a bad day.”

Psychologists call this “Social Attribution Theory”. That is, if you give your boss what is called an Internal Attribution — meaning, you perceive she acted that way toward you because that is who she is as a person on the inside – this will impact how you may relate to her in the future. Or on the other hand, if you give her an External Attribution, you will perceive that some stress must be pushing on her externally and this is why she snapped at you. In short, she must be having a really bad day.

The Insight: My Perception Now Has Become An Interpersonal Dynamic.

If I choose to believe you are a jerk and that is who you are inside (internal attribution) – it’s going to effect the outcome of our relationship. And most likely, the next time I see you, I may walk on egg shells a bit around you, and at the very least I will be on my guard when we are in the same room.

Then again, if I choose to believe that you are basically a good person who must simply be having a bad day (external attribution) – this also will effect the outcome of our relationship; and I will probably let it go and cut you some more slack and not take the outburst too seriously.

How we look at things often creates our reality. And what we may be doing, without even knowing it, is putting people in our perceptual paradigm…in other words, we are trapping them in a box in which we may not let them out.

In my seminar, THE POWER OF PERCEPTION, I tell participants this axiom: A sign of psychological maturity is being able to imagine alternative interpretations.

My teenage son won’t clean his room, he must be lazy…or is it something else? My team member looks at the ceiling as we work through important technical problems, he must be daydreaming…or, what else could he be doing? My client shuts down every suggestion I make, she must be resistant to the product…or, what else might she need to hear from me?

Sometimes, we need to stop, look, and Imagine – why did he or she do that? Why does my teammate act like that? Why does my partner or child do this? Try to imagine different alternative explanations and see if we do not often trap others in a box. Because, most of the time, people show up for us according to our perceptions of them.

To hear more about the Power of Perception and learn about the Magic of Scaling Mountains:

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