Welcome to Reality

I recently had a student tell me something that I knew to be wrong. I asked him how he came to that conclusion. He said that his conclusion was based on a certain document he read. So we pulled up that document. I had him read it out loud to me knowing that the clear words in black and white would help him see the errors in his perception. Even after multiple readings of the document he continued to contend that it said one thing when it clearly said the exact opposite.

Finally, after pointing out specific sentences in the document that clearly contradicted his perceptions, he just walked off saying, “Well, that’s the way I see it.” It was as if his perception of reality was all that mattered and the actual facts were irrelevant. It was as if he thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t change everything to fit his skewed view of reality.

We Must Work with the Perceptions of Others

Now, to a certain extent, I can understand where he came to that conclusion. It is based on a truth that anyone working in business must understand. A person’s perception is his or her reality. People’s behavior is best understood from the perspective of their perception of reality. And we must not start with the assumption that the reality that people perceive is in any way a reflection of the reality that actually exists.

I may not have the ability or the resources to change their misperception of reality. If I don’t, I must adjust. If I want to effectively work with or sell to them, I must do so based on their perceived reality.  I cannot treat them as though they are living in the reality that exists. People behave in a way consistent with their view of reality whether that perception is right or wrong.

Taking That Observation Too Far

We must be careful not to take a limited truth beyond its limits. It is like this. I can drive my car to Chicago. Because of that, I start believing I can drive my car to London. I extrapolate from my Chicago trip and assume that a trip to London is just the same. However, about twenty-five feet off the Atlantic coast, I will begin to realize that driving to London is different from driving to Chicago.

That’s the problem my students have. They take that limited truth mentioned above beyond its limits. They learn that, in certain social or economic situations, people must accommodate the misperceptions of others. They then extrapolate that to all social and economic circumstances. In fact, they extrapolate it to everything. They begin thinking that the whole world is somehow obligated to conform to their perceptions of reality.

They quit trying to make sure their perceptions fit reality. Why bother? Everything must respond to my perceptions of reality. So I pick the perceptions I want and I let the world adjust. Thus, you see a situation like I described above. They start walking through the world proclaiming, “That’s the way I see it.” They act as if there is no need to step back and ask whether or not the way they see it is correct.

Misperceiving Reality Is a Bad Thing

Our goal is not to proclaim to the world, “Well that’s how I see it” and expect it to somehow fit some false reality we create. The world has many ways to punish those whose perceptions differ from reality. Thinking we can live in our own private reality is a sure way to cause ourselves pain and heartache.

There is only one time we can expect that anyone or anything will bend to our misperceived reality. That is when someone is trying to get something from us. If someone is trying to get our money, he or she may be flexible. If a coworker wants us to do something, then he or she may put up with our false sense of reality. People will gladly accommodate (or even exploit) us being wrong if it fits their purpose.

But in general, when we are wrong, it comes back to bite us. And thus, we have what many people call the eleventh commandment. “Thou shall not fool thyself.” As Emmerson said, “Nature delights in punishing stupid people. ” There are huge advantages to making sure our perceptions actually fit reality.

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Category: Friday, November 10, 2017

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