We all see things differently.
The way one person sees things can be totally different to how someone else sees it.
The problem is, we can believe the person making the statement and think what they say is true. We can even get upset.
Here are some great examples of perception:
(a) I was consulting with an 18 year old man to help him overcome a relationship problem. After discussing past relationships, he made a comment:
“I would like you to know I am currently in a long term relationship.”
Before I continue, how would you define ‘long-term’?
I thought to myself “An 18 years olds definition of ‘long-term’ will be interesting”. So I asked:
“Can you please define ‘long-term’ for me?”
He replied “Three months”.
That certainly gave me another perspective. To him, 3 months was a long time to be in a relationship – which, interestingly, defines his outlook on relationships.
(b) Someone you are speaking with on the phone says “I have to go. I will ring you back shortly”.
When this recently happened to me, it took the caller 24 hours to call me back.
That is not my definition of ‘shortly’.
(c) “This won’t take long”.
How many minutes is long?
The last time someone said they would go and do a job ‘that won’t take long’ and then come back and help me were gone for 6 hours!
(d) “This is a big function”.
How big is ‘big’?
A person hiring me to speak at their conference made this comment. When asked to define ‘big’, they responded “Fifty people”.
While some may see it as big, others will see it as small.
(e) “I’m an A-Grade tennis player”.
I was once told this by a friend. Being an OK tennis player, I was worried. When we began playing I found she played more like a C-Grader.
(f) “I earn a lot of money”.
How much is ‘a lot’?
When asked to define it, the person said “I earn $52,000 a year”.
While this may be a lot of money to some people, it is pittance to others.
(g) “I’ll be home early”.
This was said by a teenager to his parents.
How would you define early?
He arrived home at 4:40am stating they were home early!
(h) “I don’t have any money. I’m doing it really tough”.
How would you define “doing it tough”?
This gentleman regularly makes this statement. He owns 3 homes (all paid for with two rented out), two new cars and goes overseas twice a year.
Ok. I’m sure you now get the picture.
Getting Perception Right
All too often we take what people say to be the truth. It is the truth. It is their truth. Our truth can be totally different.
As everyone perceives things differently, it is important to gain a definition of their perception. This creates clarity in your mind.
For example, in the case of “I have to go. I will ring you back shortly”, I ask the person to define ‘shortly’ so I can plan what I do. I may also enquire “If I haven’t heard from you by (this time), are you happy for me to give you a call?”
With the teenager, you may definitely like to know a time so you are not waiting up!
We know when we get it wrong because we say “I thought you meant … “.