How Perceptions Affect Our Relationships

By: Jon Henshaw, M.A.

The way we experience life is often tied with the way we perceive things. Perception doesn't tell us the truth about events. Instead, perception gives us singular observations, washed in a mixture of emotions, memories and logic. That's the reason why many people can experience the same thing, like a movie, and walk away with different interpretations and conclusions. The same is true in how we perceive each other in our relationships.

The most common cause of misperceptions in relationships come from poor communication, inadequate empathy, and infrequent introspection (self-exploration).

Poor communication usually takes the form of not being explicit with your partner about what you're feeling and thinking. It simply isn't enough to tell your partner that your angry or disappointed. Effective communication involves each of you expressing to each other what your perception of the situation is, without any connotation of who is right or wrong.

Stepping back, and expressing your unique and individual observations with each other, allows both of you to put yourselves in a position of empathy. Instead of running only with your own perception of what has transpired, you discuss with each other what you think happened, and attempt to figure out how you got there. Couples that are able to calmly recall and share their perceptions with each other, and who practice empathy, often get closer to the truth, and the resolution.

A third component in tackling misperceptions in relationships is introspection. Introspection is the act of examining and contemplating your own thoughts and feelings. The more you know yourself -- why you behave and do many of the things you do -- the better you will become in perceiving not only the actions of others, but your own actions as well.

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