Your perception is your reality, regardless of its validity. Stated another way, you do not see the world as it is, you see the world as you are.

Earlier this fall I posted a video about perception and how you show up in conversation. Unexamined perceptions become ingrained behavior patterns. They appear as making stuff up about others. When the things someone says, does and means isn’t in agreement with your perceptions, you retreat into your head and make up stories about the person to help you reconcile discrepancies.

When you make up stories about others, you run a mental movie about them where you are critical of their ways, styles, and intentions.  As a result you dump empathy for judgment, label the other person, and embellish your feelings about them, in turn escalating your negative opinion.

When you make stuff up and run a mental movie over and over, the result is blame and right/wrong thinking. The more you run your mental movie, the less you can connect with others or be helpful in difficult situations.

When examined from different angles, your perceptions and entrenched behavior pattern can be illuminated. Upon illumination, you can decide if your perception is accurate, and if you’d like to see the world and its inhabitants in a different way moving forward.

One of the hallmarks of an inspiring leader is examining and questioning your own beliefs, assumptions, and perceptions. You consciously wonder where your perceptions came from and don’t accept them as truth or fact without exploring them deeply. Upon deeper inquiry you gain expanded understanding and enhanced clarity as well as the ability to respect and appreciate the perceptions of others, even those with whom you disagree.

 An understanding of your perceptions is merely one of the many competencies of an inspiring leader. Another developed skill set of inspiring leaders, admittedly as a result of examining your perceptions, is awareness of blind spots in communication. There are five, and they are common among the uninitiated. If you’ve set a goal for yourself to be hallowed as an inspiring leader, here are the blind spots you need to be aware of [watch the video here]:

Addiction to being right

Assuming that others see what you see, feel what you feel, and think what you think leads to attachment to a singular point of view [aka, perception!]. When you are attached to a singular point of view, you are unable to connect with another’s perspective, and you may attempt to convince others you’re right and they’re wrong.

Failure to realize fear, trust and distrust changes how you see and interpret reality…

and how you talk about it. When you feel fear or threatened, you shut down and move into protective behaviors without realizing it. This attitude often shows up as defensiveness, coupled with the right/wrong thinking in blind spot #1.

Inability to stand in the other’s shoes when he is fearful or upset.

Mirror neurons give us a view into what others feel, think and intend. When you listen deeply and turn off judgement to connect with others, mirror neurons are activated, aka empathy. In a state of fear or perceived threat, empathy disconnects and your ability to understand another’s perspective recedes.

Assuming that you remember what others say…

when you actually remember what you think about what others say. You drop out of conversation every 12 to 18 seconds to process what people are saying, and you often remember only what you think about what another person said because that’s a stronger internal process; i.e., your internal listening and dialogue trumps the other person’s speech.

Assuming that meaning resides in the speaker,

when in fact it resides in the listener. For the listener to make meaning, she has to draw out what she thinks you’re saying from her own vault of emotional and decision-making experiences. Then she brings you into her internal conversation to make sense of what she heard. That’s why in her mind’s eye she sees a totally different picture of what you’re saying than what your mind sees. Meaning resides in the listener until the speaker takes the time to validate and link back to make sure both have the same picture and shared meaning.

The first step in improvement is awareness of your communication habits. Now that the five blind spots of communication have been illuminated, you can begin to notice when you are engaging in them. The next step is to stop engaging in them! Yes, it really is that simple.

As an inspiring leader who examines your own perceptions, you will be less likely to make stuff up about other people or situations, run a negative mental movie, and turn to blame and right/wrong thinking.

When you avoid right/wrong thinking, you convey confidence along with openness. Projecting openness at the beginning of an awkward or challenging conversation communicates trust and creates a safe environment where the other person can express his perspective. More perspectives = improved communication, collaboration, and solution-generation.

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