Several years ago a good friend and mentor made a state that has stuck with me for nearly 20 years and effects all I do as a leader.
“Perception is reality.”
Her point was that for the person that is watching what we do, their perception is reality for them; regardless of our intentions, regardless of what might be going on in the background that they aren’t aware of. None of that matters. For them what they perceive is the truth.
This changed the way I led people. It meant that I needed to think about how I was being perceived. It meant that I had to think about the things I said. It meant that I had to be aware of how others might PERCIEVE my actions and words. Around this time I had a friend that worked with me. As things worked out I was his direct supervisor. No matter how hard I made him work, people’s PERCEPTION was one of favoritism. I had to go out of my way, not to treat him fairly, but to treat him in such a way that people didn’t THINK I was treating him barely. This usually meant that I worked him harder than anyone else on my team.
Recently I found myself wondering how this might apply to parenting. With my kids the way that they PERCEIVE me is reality for them. If I yell at them to clean there room, but the rest of the house is a mess, their PERCEPTION is that cleanliness is not important to me. They don’t see that at the end of a 12 hour shift, with another one to go to in a few hours, I’m simply too tired to clean house.
Years ago I realized that I had developed a habit of coming home from work in the ER and drinking a beer. Now the truth is that there is nothing wrong with coming home and having one beer. However, I realized that my kid’s perception could be that alcohol was how we deal with stress. This perception could lead to my kids dealing with their stress with alcohol as they grow and this could lead to an addiction to alcohol. While this example may seem extreme, it’s not that far off. For me it meant that I decided not to drink that beer after a long day in the ER.
In what ways is your kid’s perception of you not what you would want it to be?
What things should you do differently so that your kids perceive you the way you want them to?
Even more importantly are you truly the parent you want your kids to perceive you as?