Does Perception = Reality?

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I have heard the above saying my whole life, but what exactly does it mean? Does it mean that my first impression of people is always accurate? Could it mean that someone’s perception of me is correct?

One of the items I try to teach my clients is that when you become self-aware using the language of Strengths Finder, it gives you the opportunity to increase your understanding of how you are being perceived. Learning how we are perceived then allows us to decrease others’ incorrect judgements. The formula looks like this:

Increase Understanding of Self = Decrease of Negative Judgement

Now, this formula causes some people to feel a little stressed. Most people struggle accepting ownership of regulating their talents. They have never been taught the act of “turning up” or “turning down” their personalities and have come to assume that everyone thinks just like them.

Self-awareness is an important part of adulthood. We learn that we are not the center of the universe. We learn that some parts of our personality are offensive to others. We learn to moderate ourselves so that we are not giving off an improper and incorrect portrayal of how we think.

Through my coaching classes, I am trying to teach others what it looks like to live in the balcony or basement with our strengths. The balcony and basement words in each category are, in essence, perceptions. They are thoughts or perceptions that others could possibly have about us. The balcony statements are mostly positive perceptions. They are where our strengths have become mature or experienced. The basement statements are seen as more negative or raw. Those living in the basement of their strengths tend to be perceived more negatively.

So, it’s up to us.

We have the ability, through our Strengths Finder Top 5, to learn how to regulate these negative judgements that are part of our “perception problem.” For instance, someone high in Activator, in the balcony, is a real fire starter. When they think of an idea, they act quickly. They motivate people to move, to get started, and to finish. But when this strength is turned up too high, they plow right over others. To people they manage, they feel a lot like a bulldozer, and this is a big turn-off to people. Some people might reject a really great idea just based on past performance of the manager and past perception. It can cause real stress to the employee. But when a manager becomes aware, he/she can turn down this strength and learn to listen, consider, and decide if employees have the time and capacity for a new idea or a new cause to support and champion. They may still be catching their breath from the last “movement.” Really great managers understand their team and think ahead about what’s best for the team. They understand what motivates or demotivates their team and provides a “work around” strategy for moving forward.

So if perception does equal reality, let us all be aware that it is partly our job to moderate our personalities, so we are perceived correctly instead of perceived in a negative fashion. Peering into our shadow often reveals that the problem within our teams, families, and marriages may be ourselves.

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