Errors In Perception

Buddhist Psychology says ‘We do not see things accurately’.

 Often we make assumptions and deem it to be totally accurate data- to find later, much later, that our reality was based on a wrong perception! It’s even more painful when someone does that to us. Our suffering (at work or home) is brought about by errors in perception that cause us to react unwisely or from ignorance.

These errors arise from:

  • Seeing permanence where there is impermanence
  • Seeing independence where there is interdependence
  • Seeing the whole and not realizing the parts

In my work as a Facilitator and Coach, I often see visible proof of these errors. As an Entrepreneur and Mother I am often visible proof for myself!

Error in perception #1: Seeing permanence where there is impermanence

While sharing 360 Feedback, people are often pleasantly surprised to find that the perception folks have of them is far better than they imagined. Likewise, suggestions for modified behavior are also taken as negative. The person on the receiving end always reacts as though that feedback is permanent…believing that once an opinion has been formed there is no going back from it. We fight every opinion, trying hard to defend all that we do.

Sometimes defense is unnecessary.

A perception could be based on our actions or words- and we need to reflect not react. A perception could be based on circumstances or timing- that we may have no control over. A perception could be based on our mismanagement of a relationship. However – nothing is permanent- everything changes. We just need to be aware, so as, to lessen the acuteness of the disappointment or angst we may feel with the fear of permanence.

Error in perception #2: Seeing independence where there is interdependence

A leader in an office believed in divide and rule. Each employee had a specific job to do and each was adept at their work. Yet – there were constant delays that seemed to have a domino effect. One person misunderstanding an instruction led to weeks of wasted work by 2 others. For no fault of their own. As time passed there was no growth. He was unable to delegate or find a successor. His team seemed incapable of taking on more responsibilities.

Through our reflective discussions, he realized, that no one grasped the larger purpose of their work. They understood it- theoretically. Yet they had not recognized the role they played in the big picture. He, on the other hand, grasped the nuances of each one’s job and the role they played.

Treating each as an independent contributor and not helping them recognize the value they collectively brought, resulted in his being overworked and no one really adding value strategically. When his approach changed- the co-creation and value addition increased.

When he recognized their interdependence, he was able to change his approach

Error in perception #3: Seeing the whole and not realizing the parts

There are days when I walk in for a meeting or a workshop and gauge people within the room. Experience has taught me that despite all efforts to remain neutral, my ability to make a correct initial assumption has been proven right quite often.

At a recent workshop, I was distracted with a client’s disruptive behavior. He seemed hostile to change and to being a part of the group. I saw him as a corporate leader with 18+ years of experience, who could have used his time well and should have attempted to be more civil. (Awful phrases…could have…should have!)

Part of our process involves deep one-on-one discussions. The story unfolded. He was responsible for a factory in a very remote location in India. It is surrounded by villages with no amenities or infrastructure. The issues he had to deal with were totally unique. The relevance of the communication processes we introduced seemed irrelevant to him. In addition, he had just been sent to “yet another” Leadership Development program conducted by a European company.  His disconnect and belief that this was a waste of his time was huge. At this stage, his unit was also being audited. There was a family issue to add to his stress. And his KRA’s were being discussed.

I saw the ‘whole” and judged him. When we addressed the ‘parts’ that contributed to his attitude- it turned out to be a mutually rewarding interaction!

Learning Buddhist Psychology has helped me reach stage 1- Recognizing that my angst and frustration comes from errors in my perception. Sometimes during the event, sometimes after. It definitely makes me less indignant and self-righteous. Looking forward to applying more Buddhist Psych.

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