A Disturbing Reality
Bill Cottringer

“Logic will never change emotion or perception.” ~ Edward de Bono.

After studying things like success, happiness, failure, frustration and anger for several decades now, I have come to the conclusion there may be a very disturbing reality too many of us are missing. The lion’s share of success in anything comes about through effective interpersonal relations with others. And, most of our words and actions in these interactions are based on our trust as to the accuracy of our perceptions of ourselves and others and those brought to us by others. But what if these perceptions are inaccurate or incomplete or otherwise faulty or flawed?

The disturbing reality is that too many wrongly formed opinions about ourselves and others, coming from inaccurate and incomplete perceptions along the way—especially the ones that result in problems—are the main cause of these problems. Consider these problem scenarios and their respective causes and outcomes.

Bob works for a younger manager who seems to have a trust problem with everyone. Bob himself is very trustworthy and always operates with complete integrity and practices high road ethics in his personal and professional life. One time Bob made an honest mistake in preparing a cost report for his boss at the month-end P & L time. His boss caught it and immediately went to one of Bob’s co-workers who had knowledge of the report, in order to find out the cause of the costly mistake and who was most to blame.

The co-worker didn’t particularly like Bob and gave the boss some false information about him making other mistakes. The boss immediately formed a very unfavorable opinion about Bob that because impervious to changing no matter how hard Bob worked to redeem himself, finally having to quit because of a hostile work environment and never getting a promotion he deserved. What no one new at the time was that the accepted cost spreadsheet had flawed formulas that were the real cause of the costly mistake for which Bob, unfairly bore the full brunt of the blame. But the disturbing reality played out and was never rectified.

An older movie I once watched, “The Punisher” (two much violence to recommend), had another example about this disturbing reality that was intentional and resulted in a very deadly ending. Long story short: One Mob boss bad guy had the complete family of a law enforcement good guy slaughtered at their family union because the good guy had stopped some of the criminal activity of the mob family as an undercover agent.

The good guy became a very bad guy after that massacre and set out for his vengeance. He planted convincing evidence of an affair with the bad guy’s wife and his Lt. of the mob crew, who was actually gay but unknown to the mob boss (John Travolta of all actors!). This disturbing reality resulted in two vicious deaths based on very wrong opinions of a casual meeting in a hotel being something it hardly was. A disturbing reality turned deadly.

And there was Mary who wanted to have a child very badly with her husband Ronald. The couple tried for years but no results. They explored adoption but got nowhere there either. Most of the getting pregnant problem was a physical condition Mary with ovulation difficulties. She lost interest with sex because of this infertility and the fact that it was always physically uncomfortable for her, also prompted her decreased sexual interest.

Naturally, Ronald interpreted this as Mary not loving him anymore and so he did what many married people do when confronted with that disturbing reality and he started an affair with an attractive younger female at his workplace. They got caught, both were fired from their good-paying jobs. Mary filed for a divorce and was awarded alimony for her innocence in the divorce. All the wrong perceptions, opinions and outcomes from a single wrong perception.

What are my suggestions about limiting the dreadful consequences of such a disturbing reality? A few to consider:

1. Try to keep an open mind that many of the perceptions and opinions about yourself and others that you act on, may be inaccurate and incomplete or just faulty in some way. Acting on false information rarely has a positive outcome. Remember: All you think you know may not necessarily be so.
2. When problems and negativity occur in human interactions, it is usually because something isn’t right with the approach one or both people are making to the situation. The problems are usually a sign that the information—from perceptions—which you are acting on, are wrong. In that sense negative feelings are just a gentle reminder that your approach may need re-arranging, whereas positive feelings are a sign you are on the right path, so keep moving forward.
3. Before you imperviously write off anyone with a bad opinion from a possibly wrong perceptions you have made or been given by others, stop and at least take the time and make the effort to verify your perception with some clarification and re-verification. And, as a very good friend reminded me once, “if you can’t change your mind, are you sure you have one?”
4. Know yourself well. If you have a faulty self-perception you are likely to project your own faults onto others. This is especially true for untrustworthy people who often make trust an issue when it isn’t one, or end up not trusting anyone or being trusted by anyone.
5. Finally, accept that perceptions are people’s reality, but not always the correct or complete one. At the end of the day most perceptions are based on some unverified assumptions.

“Comprehension follows perception.” ~ Philip K. Dick.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living on the scenic Snoqualmie River and mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing), The Prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press), You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence), The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree), Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers), Reality Repair, (Global Vision Press), and Reality Repair Rx (Publish America); and Thoughts on Happiness and Pearl’s of Wisdom: A Dog’s Tale (Covenant House). Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 652-8067 or ckuretdoc@comcast.net.