The deception of perception

My Perception is this was a cold day in FloridaIs it warm or cold in Florida in November? That depends on your perception.

I live in Chicago and recently spent some time in Florida.  When I left Chicago it was 20 degrees; when I landed in Florida it was 65 degrees.  For the two and a half days I was there, I wore polo shirts and my hosts wore sweatshirts and sweaters.

Was it warm or cold while I was in Florida? The fact is it was neither; it was just 65 degrees which isn’t hot or cold, it’s just 65 degrees. Since I just traveled from 20 degree weather I perceived it as hot.  My hosts live in Florida and perceive 65 degrees as slightly cold. It’s the perception of 65 degrees that makes it feel either hot or cold.

Perception comes from each of our specific backgrounds and experiences.  Things that seem easy to one may be difficult to another.  Beliefs that one person has may be opposite the beliefs that another has.

Successful leaders understand that when it comes to facts and perceptions, you start where you agree – the facts – work through where you may disagree – perceptions – to get to where you can agree – the outcome.

10 Responses to The deception of perception
  1. Zach Slade

    This is a very interesting piece. One of my favorite examples of this same concept happens every spring and fall at the golf course I used to work at. In the spring, when the temperature hit 50 degrees the course was always packed. Everyone was talking about how warm it is. However, in the fall when it hits 50 degrees everyone was always complaining about the cold weather. Literally, we would have about 20% of golfers we did in the spring at the same temperature.

    It’s very interesting how this idea relates to everything. For many people perception is reality. Whether or not it’s grounded in logic is irrelevant. People have a tendency to jump to conclusion before they really assess the situation and determine if how they are viewing something is correct. This could make all the difference.

    • admin

      Zach, great example. And you are right this happens everywhere.

  2. Gil Hodges

    Great words, Denis. One’s perception compared to another can be so hard to define, let alone determine which one is right. Facts are facts, or are they… always? We live in a complex world. I feel I have to constantly remind myself that I am a fool – a fool for Christ. Otherwise I run a high risk of thinking much more of myself and my own perceptions than I ought to. Micah 6:8 really helps me keep things in a better perspective. Making it personal: “God has shown me what He requires of me; do justice, love kindness, and walk VERY humbly before Him.” Because when it is all said and done. He is the only one with complete truth, and I can only see through a glass dimly. In other words, my perception is blurred.

    • admin

      Gil, great reminder, and I agree. Even facts can be based on perceptions. What I try to do is find the facts where we agree – like “All parties in a transaction want to improve communication,” or “We want the best education for our children.” Our perceptions may take us down different paths to achieve these truths, but starting there helps the discussion. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Joy

    It is always interesting to see how perceptions vary from person to person. This is true in many facets of life including personal and work. I enjoy hearing how individuals perceive things, whether they are positive or negative. I feel like I learn a lot from others and their perceptions which are influenced by their surroundings and energy (whether it is positive or not). Perception can be very deceiving. It is important to try to understand what others are seeing and what their perceptions might be. If you accept your perceptions for fact, you could be missing out on some great opportunities for growth or acceptance from others.

    • admin

      Joy, great comment. We should all invest the time to understand the other person’s perceptions before agreeing with or dismissing their point.

  4. Greg Mapes

    Perception is the root of illusion because it depends upon not seeing clearly or not seeing what is there in front of you at all. Illusionists depend on the viewer being distracted from seeing what is clearly in front of them for their illusions to work. This ties nicely into the concept of disillusionment. Oswald Chambers said it should be a joy to be disillusioned because the obvious truth was that you were under an illusion, now you can see with the illusion removed.
    What is called fact is really a mutual agreement about an observation and can be an illusion that the parties have agreed to say is truth. An example of agreed illusion is the recent political race, on both sides depending on the “facts.” 🙂

    • admin

      Greg, thanks for your powerful and timely comment.

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