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The Ergonomics of Relationships

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Perception is Not Reality

Amongst the persistence of balancing work and life routines exists the great challenge of balancing relationships. With work and life feeling more intertwined than ever before, the necessity to weigh relational priorities can seem increasingly complex.

We’ve all worked hard to establish the parts we play and the personas we present to our teams, families, and friends. We diligently regulate our time and attention, quickly switching between contexts while adjusting our mood, tone, and general approach—all to fit the activity and people around us. Often the person we see ourselves as is as much the same in one group as we are in the next—admittedly with some notable exceptions.

However, our perception is rarely reality. None of us ever truly sees ourselves as others perceive us. Therein lies the nuance of impression. While we may all look directly at the same thing, we each take from it something different. We gradually collect impressions of one another by building upon tiny little moments that construct a narrative of each individual—a persona—as multi-media artist Karen Connell presents in this TED Talk.

We use impressions as a foundation to better predict what we should expect out of our relationships. Because of this, we become many different forms of ourselves to different people. Each version is based on the perceiver’s own experiences, judgments, and impressions of the reality they see us in. With this knowledge comes pressure. These pressures are nuanced and often go unnoticed, despite their power to dictate the way we react and respond to others.

Who we are matters a great deal to others and perhaps even to ourselves. Psychologist Gillian Sandstrom further discusses the importance of the context of our interactions in this podcast. It’s important to remember that what we see in others may not be what they see in themselves. Likewise, what we see in ourselves, others may not.

However, the power to close the gap between perception and reality lies in empathy, expressed in this TED Talk by communication scholar Sean Tiffee. This week, endeavor to focus on empathetic listening to better understand the perceptions of others and the assumptions we ourselves make in our daily relationships.

To this end, turn to the Prism Lens® to gather feedback from others on whay they perceive in your relationship. You may just find that you’re more than meets the eye.

“It is good to see ourselves as others see us. Try as we may, we are never able to know ourselves fully as we are, especially the evil side of us. This we can do only if we are not angry with our critics but will take in good heart whatever they might have to say.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

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