Thursday, October 16, 2008


It’s Thursday, October 16, 2008

Welcome to Service Thursday!

Let’s talk about perception.

Look at the picture above. What do you see? What would your reaction be if you stumbled across such a creature?

Depending on who you are, your answer will differ.

If you were an insect or a mouse, you’d say it’s a predator – something deadly.

If you were a farmer, you’d say it’s something that catches bugs and mice – something helpful.

If you are a herpetologist, you’d say it’s a specimen to be studied – something interesting.

And if you are ophidiophobic, you wouldn’t hang around long enough to answer the question. (Ophidiophobia is fear of snakes, just so you know).

Now, let’s think about how we perceive others. We can all have the same encounter with the same person or people, and come away seeing something completely different.

And others in that same encounter may well perceive our words and actions much differently than we indended.

Some of us will see the encounter as helpful; others will see it as dangerous. Still others will perceive it as simply interesting.

For example, at my house, if there’s a spider on the wall, who do you think squeals and cries and calls the brave spouse to come dispose of it?

If your answer was my wife, you’re wrong. When it comes to spiders, I’m the squealer, and my wife is the courageous one who comes to the rescue (often giggling at my scardy-cat behavior).

In fact, more often than not, she’ll even release the beast back into the wild, where I’m just sure he’s already scheming and charting his way back to the house.

But, I digress.

Perception can be absolute reality of the perceiver. What we think we see, feel, hear and touch is reality to us.

If you have siblings or a childhood friend you still keep in touch with, try this experiment with them:

Together, think of a situation from your childhood. It could be Christmas morning, a family camping trip or a trip to the movies.

Talk about how each of you felt about something your parents or other adults said in that situation. If you’re like me and my seven siblings and friends, you’re almost sure to see things differently.

Sometimes, the differences in perception are small and slight. Others are like night and day – you perceive the same situations completely differently than the other perceived it. It doesn’t mean either of you are wrong, you just came away from the same situation feeling and seeing things differently.

I have an uncle who thinks his dad (my grandfather) was mean-spirited and ornery in some situations. My father, however, remembers some of the very same situations and thinks grandpa was kind and loving.

Same situation, same grandfather – different perceptions.

Perception to each is their reality.

So, here’s your Service Thursday challenge:

As you interact with others today – whether with your boss, your direct reports, your spouse, children or others, try to avoid letting a negative perception color anyone’s feelings about those interactions. Try really hard not to see (or be seen as) predator where others would see benefactor.

Try to perceive things with a positive spin. Try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Try also to leave an impression with them that you are a benefactor, too.

Try to make it so that neither of you perceive the other as a snake.

Try not to strike out or run, even if you’re feeling scared or repelled.

Try also not to make them want to strike out or run.

I realize this can be hard, whether in the workplace, with family or with strangers. Its especially difficult in a heated disagreement to stop thinking that everyone has an agenda that is painful and poisonous to others.

You may have a disagreement with another person, but it’s really your choice whether or not you are disagreeable in that situation.

Try to perceive the other people in your life as allies, as fellow brothers and sisters – as Children of God.

And then (the fun part of the challenge!) try your very best to treat them like you’d want to be treated in the same situation.

Treat them like Children of God.

Try not to see others as dangerous snakes with a poisonous agenda.

Try not to act in ways that give others a reason to perceive you as a snake with your own brand of venom.

That’s all there is to it!

You can do it.

I know you can do it.

Thank you for reading today.

Thank you for being willing to take my challenge.

And, as always, thank you for passing it on to others!


1 comment:

Kathryn Skaggs said...

Well... you just bring it home every single Thursday!

Our initial perceptions are almost always wrong..

This is a great reminder:-)