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Perception is Reality

By Manny Roman

Manny RomanI recently heard this, “If you think you can do a better job, go for it.” I mentioned that when presented in those words, with that tone, people will likely get the wrong impression. The reply, “I cannot control your perception.”

I strongly disagree with this. I feel that the purpose of good communication is precisely to influence perception. What is the benefit to either party when neither believes that their statements and presentations have any influence in how they are perceived? Why even bother to attempt communication if you are not consciously striving to understand and be understood? How can you blame the recipient of your presentation for improper unraveling of your intent and meaning? People say that perception is reality. If this is true, why leave perception to chance?

People also say that what you see depends on where you sit. I prefer to say, “What you see depends on where you choose to sit.” We each bring our own choice of a chair with us. This means that how we perceive things depends on a multitude of things that make up that chair. We all carry a mindset of values, ideas, understandings, misconceptions, preconceptions, personality, needs, wants, lions, tigers and bears. Our “Head World” causes us to force-fit new information into what we already believe. We tend to ignore facts and figures and emotionally attach our own meaning to what we see and hear. Our first reaction is always emotional. This is why people think, “I cannot control your perception.”

It is this “Head World” that chooses the chair. We bring this variable chair with us to every encounter with others. We change the chair often during the interaction as understanding and perception changes.

Have you ever had a great thought or idea, developed it and presented it only to find that others just don’t get it? How is it possible that those idiots cannot see what a great idea it is? How can they not understand the brilliance in the concept and the value in the implementation?

The combination of our “Head World” and the variable chair appear to be insurmountable obstacles to influencing perception. So how is it that we can realistically influence perception? Change the chair.

When we present a new idea or concept to others, we must realize that our brilliant presentation is very likely falling on emotional, prejudging eyes and ears. Ineffective presenters, as well as ineffective leaders, think that it is all about telling the story and message. This does not work. The presentation must begin with the end in mind and be tailored to the desires and needs of the recipient. To effectively do this, we must use communication framing.

Communication framing begins with the realization that we are communicating with different “Head Worlds.” Communication is a two-way street. It comprises the encoding of the idea into words and body language appropriate for the recipient, the minimizing of external and internal noise and the opportunity for feedback. To properly frame the message, we must anticipate the “Head World” and chair of our recipient and tailor the presentation to that “Head World.”

What we are doing is providing a new chair to sit in. A chair that causes the recipient to exchange the chair he brought for the one we are offering. This is not as difficult as it may sound. If we prepare what we will say, how we will say it and take into consideration the needs and wants of the recipient, we will be a long way into influencing perception. See last month’s column, “The plumber” and study the “7 Triggers to Yes” by Russell Granger for excellent suggestions on how to frame presentations.

So … if perception is reality, then we can influence perception by providing the presentation that will guide the perception in the desired direction. If what you see depends on where you choose to sit, and if I can provide the chair that I want you to sit in, I can influence your perception and, thus your reality. This, of course, requires that I do more than make the chair available. I must also guide you to sit in it. How do I do that? Glad you asked. You do that by providing an effective presentation. So, it follows that presentation determines reality, therefore presentation is everything.

All that said, it is best to do all this face-to-face. You did not hear how I said all of the above, and did not see my nonverbal cues, and did not have the opportunity to provide and request feedback. Sine we did not conduct good communication I am not responsible for your current chair and, therefore, I cannot control your perception.

Ruth and I wish everyone happy holidays and a great New Year.

Manny Roman, CRES

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