Perception is Unique

 Man looking up

“We don’t perceive things as they are, we perceive them as we are!”
~~  Anaïs Nin

Effective communication is very dependent on our perception.  By nature, that makes our own perception unique from all others.

We respond to others based on what we see, hear and feel.  Or, more accurately, we respond based on what we think we see, what we think we hear and how we think we feel.

Keep in mind that our perception of the world is heavily influenced by our own experience, culture, attention, assumptions, bias and agenda.

I find that many of the most effective communicators often see past their own influences to understand others better.  The consideration of the view point of others is very powerful.  And I’m not talking about a projection of your own views onto others.  I am referring to a true, deliberate action to consider view other than our own.

For example, have you ever spoken with a stranger on the phone and wonder why they seem mad or upset with you (and assuming you’ve not been rude or inappropriate)?   Did you consider that they may indeed be upset but it may have absolutely nothing to do with you?  Perhaps they had a fight that morning with their spouse or they are having money trouble or the dog is sick.  

The fact is that you often have no real factual idea why the are upset, just that you are on the receiving end of this problem and, by experience, assume it is thus some how about you.  However, to assume their behavior is solely based on you and nothing else is, well, self-centered.

Before jumping to a “feeling” based conclusion and responding based on that conclusion, consider the facts you do know and those you do not know.  Unless you are explicitly told, you likely do not know why that person is really upset.  Odds are that it is not all because of you.  Sorry.  So don’t make it about you as a response.

Considering the perspective of others is hard.  It requires practice.  But as you get better at it, you can also get better at understanding how you are perceived.   Together, all of this improves your ability to communicate with others.


Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website,, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly

© 2012 All Rights Reserved.  Glenn S. Phillips and Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.