A Matter of Perception

We all have heard the saying “actions speak louder then words,” yet what is it that the action is saying to us? Do they tell us anything about another’s motives, and intentions? Unfortunately observing another’s actions alone does very little to tell us anything about the other’s internal motives. Thus we are left to interpret the action within a context of our history, and relationship with that person. No matter how well we think we know the situation and the other person, any conclusion that we come too is just an interpretation.
            Many times conflict is rooted in our perception of another’s actions and intentions. How we view and interpret the behavior another, can determine our attitude towards the shaping of the conflict. For many people there are tendencies which we follow that help build this perception. Such tendencies involve assigning internal and external reasons for the behaviors of others and ourselves. When we see another’s action or a behavior that we do not like, we tend to assign an internal reason for the behavior such as a character flaw to explain the other party’s action.  For example, if a co-worker is late to an important meeting, we may say it is because she is unorganized, uncaring, or unprofessional. These types of labels tend to show a character flaw towards the other. However when we are the ones that are late to the meeting, we tend to excuse our behavior with external reasons such as my child was sick, or traffic was heavy. Rarely will we attribute our lateness to our professionalism or laziness.                                                                              
             Such perceptions can promote conflict by creating barriers that can prevent us from understanding each other. They can create perceptions that may not be accurate and make others put up defenses that enable us to see the issues clearly. Just being aware of these tendencies can help us move away from conflict in our lives. We will be more open minded and clearer when we see behaviors that we do not like. Therefore when you address a problematic behavior with another, be aware of your own perception limitations and focus on the behavior itself and not its interpretation. Discuss the behavior with the other party because you can measure and observe the behavior but you cannot measure or observe the motive or intention.  These simple steps of awareness and addressing the behavior itself will do wonders in resolving conflicts in your life.

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