How Do We Reconcile Our Perceptions vs Our Realities?

I find the current sexual harassment and discrimination scandals dispiriting. Regardless of the good work these men (and some women) have achieved in their lives, their legacy will always be one of sexual predation, an abuse of power. (I wrote a little about this and how it plays out in work in Power, Management, and Harassment: It’s a Cultural Problem.)

We know that people have internal thoughts which lead to specific actions. We also know those thoughts and actions might not be congruent with what other people see.

When the face we show to the world is not who we are, we don’t reconcile our insides and our outsides. This is a huge problem in any relationship. We might not be perfect at being the same person in all contexts. The more congruent our internal values are with our external expression of those values—our actions—the more people can trust us.

They might not trust us to do something we like. However, they can trust us to behave in a somewhat predictable fashion.

The more incongruent our actions are with our apparent value, the more the fall from grace. The more tarnished their legacy is. And, the more I feel cheated and distrustful of almost anything supposedly good these people have done in the past.

This phenomenon occurs all the time. If you’ve ever worked on a project, you might have known something specific—that the performance of the system worked in this way, or that those tests could never fail, or that no manager would allow you to work in a certain way. For me, learning that the performance doesn’t work that way, or that the tests fail, or that the manager surprises me might be disconcerting, or even uplifting.

But, when I have trouble reconciling the person I thought I knew from the reality, that feels quite different to me. I’m disappointed. I feel let down by their actions. I thought they were “better” somehow.

Sometimes, I have trouble trusting anyone similar to that person who disappointed me. I paint “everyone” in that group with the same broad brush. Not well done of me, I agree. I am human. That’s my first reaction.

After some reflection, and yes, it almost always takes me some reflection time, I realize that this is one person, an individual. I start to look for what’s similar about other people who show similar incongruent behavior. In this case, it’s about power.

I am sure I disappoint other people, too. I am not who they expect me to be. If that’s happened to you, please do tell me where the difference in your perception of me vs. your reality of me differs.

We can adapt to a new reality. We can continue to believe in our perceptions. Or, we can choose a new reality. I would much rather understand reality than still use my original perception, regardless of how I need to change what I thought.

That is the question this week: How do we reconcile our perceptions with our realities?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: