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Unraveling Differing Perceptions of Reality

October 3, 2010

Unraveling Differing Perceptions of Reality:

How many times have you been involved in or watched discussions spiral out of control, and wished you could steer them toward a more reasonable conversation, one with less emotional baggage? I know I have been guilty more times than I’d like to admit of reacting emotionally to situations or perceived provocations and fueling the fire of others’ reactions. It may be difficult to hear and thoughtfully consider opinions and judgments from others that vastly differ from your own.

If we accept that our perceptions are our realities, it may be helpful to further explore why perceptions vary, which in turn had leads to alternate views of reality. This recognition is central to resolving differences more constructively and effectively. We can do this by acknowledging:

  • Our perceptions are influenced by our values, education, culture, experiences, beliefs, responsibilities, and position.
  • Each of us has a different perception of what is true, based on our different life experiences.
  • Our use of language reflects our nuggets of reality.
  • Our nuggets of reality are not the only ones on any given topic – and there can be more than one “truth.”
  • Disagreements often arise from conflicting perceptions, which affect where we place our focus and how we interpret information, conversations and events.
  • Conflicts are resolved and agreement is reached by constructively challenging each other’s nuggets of reality while remaining open to varying interpretations, assumptions, and conclusions. In other words, we must always seek to understand and work to identify the sources of our various perceptions.

Stepping back from our own perceptions and concepts of right and wrong, and seeing situations through the eyes of others, is a crucial step in finding common ground, resolving conflicts, and restoring broken relationships. It requires an investment of time, effort, and problem solving, as well as an interest in tracing the differences back to the points where the logic paths diverged.

When you find yourself struggling in discussions with people who have deep-seated differences, challenge your own assumptions and consider exploring the genesis of the others’ perspectives and positions.

Steve Weitzenkorn

Steve Weitzenkorn, Ph.D., is a learning innovator, organizational advisor, experienced facilitator, and lead author of Find-Fulfill-Flourish: Discover Your Purpose with LifePath GPS – a book, tool kit, and workshop series focused on guiding people toward more meaningful and fulfilling lives.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. David K. permalink
    October 3, 2010 4:27 am

    Our individual perceptions of reality are also influenced by basic biology.

    I use this simple demonstration in my classes:

    We are, somewhat, products of our biology and environment, but being cognizant of the biological, historical/cultural influences in our own lives and those of others, can broaden our perceptions and allow for deeper and more effective communication.

  2. October 4, 2010 1:03 am

    Now you’re talking

    We are teaching a 26 week course on this……d

    does reality actually exist?

    Is there really an ‘objective’ point of view?

    A big fan of quantum mechanics……powerful ideas you’ve expressed.

    The Sufi’s teach…..’There is a area beyond the field of right and wrong, I will meet you there’…….your great post brings that up for me.

    Perspectivism is easier said than done but we can never experience life fully without out it and you have given the readers a great many ways to begin to expereince this crucial aspect of life.


    mark j

    • October 4, 2010 5:55 am


      Thanks so much for your thoughtful and enthusiastic comments and feedback. Your insights and questions are terrific and will give readers even more guidance. Please tell us more about your course.

      Wishing you the best,

  3. May 14, 2013 11:25 am

    Excellent blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Cheers!

    • May 14, 2013 4:48 pm

      Thanks for your comment and kind words.

      WordPress has worked well for us. I’d go with a free platform to start.


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