Perception matters: how we see others
Back in our childhood, when air conditioners were uncommon, we used to keep our doors and windows open, letting flies, bees and butterflies whizz freely into our homes. We would be busy trying to catch them and would not rest until they were either zapped or let out.
Some of these busy little creatures would exit as soon as they entered realising this is not where they would find nectar. But there would be those like flies that lingered because of the filth they saw indoors. This same phenomenon can be found in humans. Some of us are only attracted to virtues, while others love to dwell on the vices surrounding us.
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It is a universal truth that humans get attracted to negativity more than otherwise. In a corporate environment, the most hated are the bosses and HR personnel. There are great bosses and HR colleagues, but how often do we talk about them?
Our perceptions stem from our character traits, past experiences, and social norms and expectations, among others. Structuring our thoughts to develop our instincts to perceive any given people or situation could be helpful. I have considered two parameters to define the types: positivity versus negativity and optimism versus pessimism.
We are all familiar with the pessimistic type of people who fail to see good. This trait can sometimes also be the result of a superiority or inferiority complex. They are found in every society – the more sophisticated the society is, the more disguised they are, and vice versa. They get upset if a colleague gets a promotion and they don’t.
Some parents get upset when other kids get better grades than their own. They focus only on the shortcomings, magnifying them out of proportion. They can be harmful in varying degrees to people around them because of their negative perceptions.
Then there are those who are smart and virtuous enough to perceive and understand both good and bad but are naturally inclined to be neutrals. This group remain constructive and honest to both sides of people’s characteristics. This group sees relationships from the lens of fairness. This group of people risks being disconnected from others due to their indifference. Often, we call such people “boring” and tend to stay away from them.
On the other hand, there is another type who is similar to the above type in being able to perceive the good, but that is where the similarity ends because they decide to ignore the good for the bad.
Most of us have experienced quick admonishment for one failure and a lack of appreciation for many good deeds in our professional and personal lives. Sometimes, a minor mistake at work is blown out of proportion because of someone’s preconception or flawed perception. When the boss develops a prejudice against a particular employee, a minor mistake may result in termination. I call this latter group the bees that choose to fly indoors in search of filth instead of the nectar outside.
There are those who see and understand the good and the bad and consciously choose to neglect the evil and focus on the good. It’s a rare quality in our environment as they must consciously try to avoid the human tendency to see the bad. This is contrary to the earlier example.
It is not impossible to reach the qualities of this group of people, but it requires consistent hard work, determination and practice. In building a better working and home environment, we need many such people.
As humans, we make mistakes, sometimes big ones, but we also have our share of good deeds. Any perception, preconception, or opinion should not be fixed. Rather, it should evolve to accommodate variables, for life is constantly progressing. Don’t zap the bee — let it fly out the window.