Perception: ‘Mining the Perception Reality Gap’

Erin Halonen is an Educator and the former First Nations, Métis, Inuit, Curriculum Consultant in the Curriculum Implementation and Resources Branch, Alberta Education. Her passion for Education for Reconciliation and Indigenous Ways of Knowing was born through her lived experience with the local Cree First Nations community. Embedded in her work is deep sense of agency to urge the provincial education system to move forward in reconciliatory understanding and action.  __________________________________________

A team charter guides daily interactions between team members. The core principle of our team charter is Wahkotowin the Cree word meaning kinship. Kinship or interconnectedness is our guide for how we work together. As a team, we have agreed to the continuous improvement or continuous strengthening of our working relationships.  To keep us on track, we revisit the team charter to extend our understanding of Wahkotowin regularly.

Recently our team explored the concept of perception. What is perception? How are perceptions formed? How can we manage or affect perceptions, or in other words, how does perception influence the functioning of a team? We aligned this work with Indigenous worldview and teachings where applicable.

What is perception and how is it formed?

Perception forms when the brain organizes sensory information that is taken in through one or all of the five senses. The brain organizes the sensory information and creates meaning from it by aligning it to the individuals’ worldview. Worldview is the lens through which we see the world and is formed over time and influenced by several factors. Worldview impacts every aspect of our lives, influencing how we express ourselves, our goals, relationships and behaviors.

In Dare to Lead, Brené Brown discusses the importance of understanding others’ worldviews as an empathy building measure. We explored western worldview and indigenous worldview with a high-level overview of each. Team members then had the opportunity to share life events or pieces of their life that have affected the development of their worldview. The sharing’s were incredible. As we learned about each other we could all agree that worldview affects perception and that we could all be in a room at the same time, experiencing the same thing and experience the event differently.

How does perception influence the functioning of a team?

Dr. Sean Tiffee discusses minding the perception reality gap and building empathy in a Tedx Talk. He posits that when we recognize that we have different perceptions from each other, it sometimes creates a hurdle in relationships. It can lead to the belief that one perception (usually one’s own) is the correct perception making the other one incorrect. He suggests that more than just minding the gap, we can ‘mine’ the gap. Meaning that we can leverage the awareness that we perceive the world around us differently in order to understand each other better. Leveraging this awareness leads to higher team functioning. We need different perspectives in a team in order to propose creative, innovative, and best thinking forward in our work.

Leveraging the perception reality gap or mining the gap                

Brené Brown suggests no matter how much time and effort is applied, to manage the perception of others is next to impossible.  However, honoring the views of others is very possible. Brown suggests living into your authentic self, identifying, and aligning with core values as strategies to manage perception. Team members discussed their core values at a recent Dare to Lead read along session and also looked to The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, as strategies to support mining the gap. Ruiz is of Toltec decent. He presents four agreements, as shown in the graphic, that we can make with ourselves that support managing our own perceptions and also mining the perception reality gap.four agreements don miguel ruiz

Next Steps

Next steps include extending our understanding of mining the gap, by exploring how we can adapt Ruiz’ four agreements and create a set of  agreements which will align and strengthen our team charter.  It is work that is proving to be well worthwhile!

A Final Note

In a light hearted attempt to show the perception reality gap, we viewed a short clip from The Office. If you have time for a good chuckle, please find it here.

Please comment and share the strategies that have worked for your teams regarding minding or mining the gap?

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