Our mind plays tricks on us, and our eyes and ears are unwitting co-conspirators. They continually get us in trouble. It’s a WYSINWII kind of thing (What You See Is Not What It Is).
Remember Benjamin Franklin’s advice, “Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.”
Perception is the process of interpreting sensory stimuli. So, in a literal sense, touch, taste, and smell get in on the game, too. Our sensory organs take in information from our surroundings and feed it into the brain where it is interpreted into our reality. IIWISII (It Is What I Say It Is)–EOD (End Of Discussion).
Every one of us has experienced a situation in which we were absolutely certain we had our objective facts correct, only to find out that we had been fooled again. Drats.
Misperception is the root of all kinds of unintended conflicts.
And here’s the danger zone: our misperceptions–misinterpretation–becomes our reality, and we act on it. Then, someone perceives our intentions and reacts to our actions. Then, we react to the reaction, and the vicious cycle takes on a life of its own.
What we have here is a failure to communicate: the other person obviously doesn’t understand. After all, how could I possibly be wrong about what I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears?
Been there? Done that? I have.
How, then, can we avoid getting fooled?
I have not found a failsafe workaround. But I have been able to come up with a few rules of thumb that help keep me balanced. Maybe they will work for you, too.
- Everyone is always right in their own mind, at any point in time. Think about it. Why would anyone intentionally be wrong? I Accept that everyone has his or her understanding of events, and they are as legitimate to them as mine are to me.
- Never tell anyone they are wrong. Allow their perceptions. Seek to understand the underlying information and how they worked through it to arrive at their understanding. Have a conversation, not an argument.
- I like myself more when I admit that I could be wrong about something without damaging my self-esteem. Always having to be right is too big a burden to bear. Being wrong does not mean I’m incompetent or inadequate–just human.
- Do a double-take. Most things are not quite as they initially seemed. After my initial knee-jerk reaction, which I cannot prevent because the fight or flight system hijacks me, I stop and reflect on what is happening. Reserve judgment about right-wrong, good-bad, and take another look at the situation. Focusing on different aspects of the information might result in a different interpretation of it.
- Change perspective. I shift my point of view to that of the others involved. I try to envision how I would see the situation through their eyes and experience. This also helps me to be more empathetic, and even compassionate; thus, potentially altering my response.
I have never been more embarrassed than
when I was so certain of my opinion
and told everyone so.