Do you often say, 'that's not what I meant', or hear, 'you're not understanding me.'? This could be because there's a difference of perception in what is said between you and another, based on interpretations of a past negative situation.
What do you see in the image below?
Is it a young lady or an old woman? Either way, what you see maybe different to what others see. We perceive things at multiple levels of awareness. At the most basic level, there is a neurological perception, the way we perceive sensory-based things.
Lets call this 'Representational System', which fundamentally means the expressions of the way we individually process and describe information based on the following processing styles; Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic and Auditory digital.
- Visual - Seeing
- Auditory - Hearing
- Kinaesthetic - Feeling
- Auditory digital - Inner dialogue or self talk.
As an external event happens, (someone says something or does something to us), we make an Internal Representation (I/R) of that event. The Internal Representation combined with our physiology, creates an emotional state within us. The state that we are in are a combination of internal pictures, sounds, feelings and self talk that we have experienced over time caused by either negative and/or positive events.
The way we represent the world and these external events comes in through our five senses (sensory input channels) which are;
- Visual - the things we see in our mind or in reality
- Auditory - sounds or words we hear. We hear them ether externally or in our own minds
- Kinaesthetic - any emotions or sensations including touch and texture.
- Olfactory - smells
- Gustatory - tastes.
When information reaches our brains, it is given meaning and forms a subjective experience of the world - this is our representation and perception.
As the external event comes through these sensory input channels it is filtered and we then process the information for that event. We delete, distort and generalise what comes in. When two people experience the same event in the same way, they respond differently because they filter and process differently than each other.
- Deletion - It's important to delete information from the thousands of events happening around us from our minds, otherwise we'd go mad. We are able to do this as we selectively pay attention to certain aspects of our experiences and not others, omitting or overlooking as events occur.
- Distortion - Misrepresenting reality. Distortion twists the truth in that the speaker draws conclusions or makes assumptions.
- Generalisations - Always!, Never!, Every! When we have an unhappy experience or one we describe as 'bad', we are afraid that it will happen again. We come to believe that a single experience can represent an absolute truth.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to perception, but there is a right or wrong in how we behave due to our own interpretation. For example: You are convinced a friend has lied about you or you feel like an important person just doesn't care enough about you. You react in an aggressive way because you feel it's justified.
How do you think the other person feels being on the receiving end of your aggression? Maybe part of you don't care, maybe you're thinking they deserve it, maybe you just want the other person to recognise 'what they've done to you.'
What is it you want from the other person? An apology? Recognition? What if they don't agree that they've done anything wrong and try to explain to you that, that is not what they meant?
The key here, is to recognised when your anger has been triggered and then understand what it is you are perceiving. Have you deleted good information, distorted what you've heard, generalised too much? Ask yourself, 'is it me, is it them, is it us?
You may see the young lady, but another will see the old woman.