Perception is projection.

If you’ve heard the old saying “Perception is Projection”, you’ll probably be aware at least of the intent to its underpinnings.

It takes up the idea that the external world that you interact with and form opinions on; i.e. perception, is not so much an objective reality, but in fact is a result of your projection of your internal, logical or emotive interpretation of the object, event or person.

Let’s take a slight step back and look at it differently.

As humans, when we’re faced with a situation, our conscious and unconscious minds go into over drive, digging deep into the memory banks. We flick through the mental encyclopedia of experiences that we’ve built up over the years to make sense of what we are experiencing based on our experiences of the world. We then essentially project that view of the world on to the situation to give it a relevant meaning.

Think about it. We see someone smiling, we look in the archives and associate laughter with happiness, based on our own use of smiles and laughter. The reality is of course, that we don’t know anything about why that person might be smiling. We are projecting that interpretation on the stranger, but it could be how they react to stressful or sad situations.

Have you ever gone to a foreign country and not understood a gesture that everyone appears to be making?

Tough, isn’t it.

All of a sudden, you can’t project an interpretation or definition on the actions because you simply have never experienced it before. And if you do try the nearest fit, chances are you might take offence to a friendly mannerism.

Why is that relevant?

Well.  As entrepreneurs, or in fact, anyone who wants to excel in a job or making new relationships, we need to understand the need to build rapport, connect with those to whom we can add value, negotiate.

But therefore in the same token it is critical to understand the limitations of our understanding and truly listen to someone who is communicating with us.

“It takes one to know one”.

We can take an empathetic approach and try to put ourselves in others shoes, but it’s important to acknowledge that when doing so it still remains through the filters that you’ve gained through experience. The art of truly listening, sometimes involves not striving towards having an opinion on what you hear – at least, not immediately.

Applying this practically, the truth is that a lack of doing the above is where a lot of people fall short when targeting their product to an audience. NB for all intents and purposes, a CV essentially is a summary of a product.

Have you ever had a meeting or interview and come out thinking ”what a smug know-it-all” after the other person asked a certain question or smiled after an answer. That assessment happened instantly and is forged from the your definition of ”smug” based on either how you would act or how people have acted in the past towards you. Fact is, he could have been hoping for further information or simply resonated with your answer, causing him to smile.

In a way it’s a case of he who grows up with the snakes, fears getting bitten. If you spend a long amount of time in a certain environment where people exhibit a certain behavior, then it becomes critical to realise that not everyone outside of that situation, acts the same way.  This is particularly prevalent within work environments. I’ve seen first hand how a ‘toxic few’ can result in an atmosphere of distrust. And a general atmosphere of distrust, back stabbing and the like can quickly lead to employees that are not only very cynical within their workplace, but it transcends into their external life and the way that they act towards new relationships, both personal or professional. Similarly, working in an open and honest environment can lead to disappointment in ”the wider world”.

The same goes when a prospective buyer criticizes one of your ads. Not only are you projecting a view on what they may say in response to it; you have to be aware that they are doing the same to your ad.

The key is mindfulness.
For the communicator:
“Is what I’ve said clear”
“Is my body language and tone consistent with my intent?”
“Have I asked if I have been clear to avoid doubt?”

and for the receiver:
“Is that what they really meant?”
“Have I asked if I am interpreting their question correctly?”
“Could I ask “Does that answer your question” to remove any doubt?”