Perception is not Reality

Perception is not Reality

By Kelsey Seitter

“Perception is Reality.” Ah, yes, an all-too-common adage in the business world. I’ve heard this phrase mostly in cases where there is either direct or indirect conflict and used as a matter-of-fact statement that does little to further discourse between parties and get down to what matters most: true reality.

To be strictly analytical, by definition, perception is not reality.

Perceptionthe way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something

RealityThe world or the state of things as they actually exist… existence that is absolute, self-sufficient, or objective, and not subject to human decisions or conventions.

These are two very different definitions, with perception existing inside the mind and reality existing outside the mind.

Perception is a unique lens we all have and use to view reality. It’s heavily influenced by our biases, memories, interpretations, and understanding of the world around us. Because of this, we tend to presume our perception is, in fact, reality. But it is not.

“[Our perceptions] are often warped in the first place by our genetic predispositions, past experiences, prior knowledge, emotions, preconceived notions, self-interest, and cognitive distortions.” – Jim Taylor, Ph.D.

Now, I’m not saying that no one is ever right or that there is little to no truth to people’s perceptions. What I am saying is that we need to be conscious of the potential distortions that they’re founded on, especially in conflict and determining what true reality is.

As leaders, we should exercise introspective behaviors that question our own perceptions and encourage the same of our employees, teams, and colleagues. We should lead by example in continually challenging our perspectives, seeking input from reputable and trustworthy sources, and being respectful of others’ perceptions – because you know what, they could be right.

So, the next time someone throws out, “Perception is reality,” to something that is squarely unjustifiable, simply remind them: That is your perception, but it is not reality.

*This article first appeared on LinkedIn

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