Perception is 9/10 of Everything

I wrote this piece for my company’s blog.  It received a great response so I thought I would share it here as well.  I tweaked it a, but the message is the same. Enjoy!

I once heard someone say that “there is no such thing as reality, only perception.” Meaning that how we perceive the world is the truth for each of us even if it contradicts with how others view the world. For example, a villain in a movie doesn’t believe himself to be a villain or to be doing evil, he simply has a different morality code than the hero.  We all bring certain perceptions into our lives and interactions, however, our perceptions of the world may not be appropriate for every situation- especially when working  with clients, fellow employees or even loved ones.

Consider the following scenario:
A father and his teenage son are driving home after the son’s basketball game when their car goes over some black ice. The father loses control and their car hits the guard rail. Their vehicle is now in a ditch on its side. Both the father and son are taken to the hospital in an ambulance. The father dies on the way to the hospital and the son is rushed into the operating room. The surgeon is about ask for the scalpel, but instead says “I cannot operate on this patient! He is my son!”

How is this possible?

This riddle first appeared on All in the Family (and later on The Cosby Show) and most people were stumped. Were you able to guess the right answer?  Originally, the answer was that the surgeon was the boy’s mother.  The riddle was meant to demonstrate how we categorize men and women into traditional roles based on our perceptions and illustrated a need for more diversity and inclusion.  (Even today when many people think of a doctor they think of a man first.)  However, how creative can you be with this situation?  The boy could have had two fathers or could have had a step-father.

In this scenario, you can see how our preconceptions can be inappropriate. Our history and our given circumstances help to form certain prejudices of which we may not be aware.  Clinging to our preconceived views of the world can interfere with our empathy; it can remove our ability to stand in some else’s shoes and to see events through their eyes. Ultimately, we could come across as uncaring and harsh. The next time  you have a difficult time with someone, ask yourself if you are bringing anything unnecessary to the table.