What's your Perspective on your Perception?
GUILTY OR NOT GUILTY?
As I switched on the TV this morning, the live telecast of the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder case of George Floyd was on. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this case shook the world on 25th May 2020 when the incident happened, and the tremors still haven’t settled nearly a year on.
While watching the defense attorney Eric Nelson make his closing arguments, I thought about how sometimes we get saddled with a problem that we didn’t ask for, but still have to handle. It might be a challenge that you may not want, or even believe in…but you still have to deal with it to the best of your ability. Not an easy job, and I’m not sure how many lawyers would line up for an assignment like Nelson’s but I guess that’s part of the territory for an attorney and that’s why they get paid the big bucks!
It was riveting watching Nelson make every possible effort to create “reasonable doubt” in the minds of the jurors. Given the circumstances, the incriminating video evidence, and the global media attention on this case, it must have been very challenging to build a case to defend the seemingly indefensible. In one of his arguments, he spoke about the difference between perception and perspective in an effort to explain the testimonies of the bystanders. It caught my attention because I had been recently reading about the issues of perspective and perception and how they impact our lives.
PERCEPTION AND PERSPECTIVE
Perception is defined as the ability to hear, see, or become aware of something through our senses. In other words, it is what we interpret. Perception typically stems from the belief systems that we develop over a while through experiences. For instance, our perception of our career could be positive or negative based on what we might have seen, heard, or experienced in the past.
Perspective is the way we see something – our point of view. The expression “look at the big picture” refers to a change of perspective. Looking at a situation from a different angle will give you a different perspective. Here’s an amusing example. I have a TV at home, the remote of which has seen better days. In the good old days of getting things repaired, I would have just got a technician to repair the remote for a small sum. In today’s use-and-throw world, trying to get it repaired might cost me more than the TV itself! So it now works only when pressed from a certain angle. To change channels or volume, we have to move the remote up-down, side-to-side till a particular angle does the trick. Could our minds work in a similar manner? When we’re stuck with a problem and nothing seems to be working out, could we shift the way we look at the problem to move things along – a change of perspective perhaps?
In his book “The Biology Of Belief” author Bruce Lipton talks about choosing your lens carefully regarding how we look at our world. Just as wearing glasses with pink lenses makes everything around us look pink, we have a choice in our perspective of things.
Someone cuts you off in traffic as you head to work. Is getting enraged and upset the only option? What if you could change your perspective and just let go assuming that the driver who cut you off had an emergency?
Your friend ignores your greeting at a party. Does that mean they don’t like you anymore? Is it possible that they might not have heard you because they were distracted or busy?
“People only see what they are prepared to see” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The interesting connection between perspective and perception is that our perspectives generally come from our perceptions. We all have our perspectives on various issues based on our perceptions. For example, if you perceived that all success is due to luck, then you might just end up attributing any failure on your part to bad luck. But if you changed your perception of the relationship between success and luck, you might get a different perspective on your failure and possibly learn from it so the next time around you could be successful.
It is possible to change a person’s perspective on an issue but to do that it is important to get to the bottom of why they have that perspective. What is the perception that is the driving force behind this perspective? If the perception can be shifted, the perspective can be changed.
OPTIMIST OR PESSIMIST?
After drinking half of his glass of milk, the nine-year-old boy declared happily, “I am an optimist. The glass is half empty!'"
His mother said, “Looking at the glass as half empty is a sign of pessimism, son”.
The boy smiled and replied, “Not if you don't like what's in it.”