The Eye of the Perceiver


binocularsIn recent preparation for some out-of-town company, I panicked at the state of my house. The carpets had not been vacuumed, the bathtubs not scrubbed, and the mirrors needed glass cleaner, desperately.

A friend happened by as I was starting the feverish effort to get my house clean. When I explained the source of my stress, she asked how I could possibly think my house needed hours of attention. I pointed out the dust on the baseboard and dog hair in the entryway. She shrugged. Soon, we realized the obvious variable in this disagreement: the eye of the perceiver. Although the house didn’t meet my standards for how I wanted to present it to others, my friend considered it clean and tidy.

This interaction reminded me of similar conversations I have with my peers and clients. The observations of others may vary based on the lens through which they view the world. The direct communicator appears honest to her colleagues who communicate in the same manner, yet abrasive to her softer, more diplomatic associates. The micromanaging boss appears rigid in the eyes of his flexible and relaxed subordinates. However, to those with the same adoration for details and control, this behavior is appreciated and supported.

The eye of the perceiver and even our own viewpoint is insightful, but is still based on one individual with unique views and biases. It is the collective views of our friends, peers, and coworkers that solidify our reputation and, ultimately, what matters for success. Ignoring such information or considering only our own viewpoint may lead down a path of ineffectiveness, derailment, or dissatisfaction. Valid assessments provide a reliable platform for one to receive such aggregated feedback; however, for those who don’t have the opportunity to receive this information, there is certainly still value in the words of a trusted friend.