A perception checking statement is a message you create to check your understanding of someone’s words or behavior. Checking your perception involves gaining mutual understanding by decoding messages more accurately. It helps us to avoid assumptions and reduce our defensiveness and to lessen the possibility for conflict. How do you check your perception? Following these three steps can lead you to becoming a more effective communicator:
- Description. What was the behavior you noticed?
- Interpretation. Think of at least two ways this could be interpreted.
- Clarification. Request Clarification from the person about the behavior & your interpretations.
Here’s an example of Perception Checking in Action:
You go to a party with your friend, and she leaves without saying goodbye. This is what happened. This is the description of the behavior. Let’s check the perception. You ask yourself, “was she mad at me, or did something just come up that was beyond her control?” These are the possible interpretations. The only thing left to do is give them a call or ask them the next time you see them. That’s your request for clarification (Conflict Resolution Education, 2015).”
But it doesn’t just stop there. It’s important to be mindful of the way you approach the person and how you deliver the message. You don’t want to seem like you are accusing anyone of anything. Be vigilant, and make sure you complete the three steps in order. Form your perception based on what you saw, consider at least two possible causes for it, and then ask them why. And lastly, ask yourself, is it appropriate? You’ll find your answer when you take the time to consider the cultural ramifications as well as the timing (Conflict Resolution Education, 2015).
If more people followed these three steps in their personal interactions with others maybe the world would be a better place. I know that sounds crazy, the notion that understanding people better by considering things from their perspective, is an impossible dream. But I think it’s sad that people view that as being naive. What’s so wrong with trying to better ourselves?
In the Conflict Resolution Education module, designed by LaCesha Clark and Bill Warters from Wayne State University, I found this passage that I think sums it up nicely,
"The only way to create one perception of reality would be to systematically force everyone to have the same experiences. Fortunately, by using these kind of perception checking skills, we can do our best to understand how others are experiencing the world and we can avoid misinterpreting their behavior."
We are all different, each of us perceiving our own worlds based on our own experiences, each of them exclusive to our self. Perception Checking is simply considering all of the information before jumping to conclusions. We have to find balance, temper our emotional reaction and consider things from a logical standpoint. Novaco (2000) states,
"While most of those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of "what has happened to them," psychologists point out that an angry person can very well be mistaken because anger causes a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability."
Personally, this is where my problem is currently. I can type an argument much better than I can have one in person. Keeping your emotions in check when you feel strongly about something is difficult, and a skill that we would all do well to attempt to master. For me, I never feel that the time or place is appropriate. Those random instances when you’re in someone else’s home who you love and respect, and the guy across the room is referring to people’s sexual preference in derogatory ways, saying things like “Did you see that show with the fag basketball player,” or, “What are we going to do about all the Muslims taking over the country?” The kind of emotions I am feeling inside when I hear statements like this are extremely powerful, and I know in that moment that anything I say is not going to come out in a civilized way. So I file the experience away, go home, and write about it.
I sure wish the people who say those type of things would practice some perception checking of their own once in awhile. But that’s just a pipe dream, right? Straight from the mind of a wide-eyed liberal with a bleeding heart who just doesn't know any better.