Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Perception vs. Reality

Why does it infuriate people to learn that "perception" is as important to the solution to a problem as reality? My guess is it makes the person affected feel like the problem isn’t being taken seriously.

But the fact is perception fueled by word of mouth is as powerful as, or more powerful than, the reality, and perception is anything but equitable or fair. To me perception is an impression, and reality is the fact. Perception can be accurate, or it can be a myth and urban legend.

Fixing "reality" never eliminates misperceptions. We’ve learned that by tracking changes in public opinion polls before and after big developments that create a lot of buzz. Misperception is fueled by stereotyping, unbalanced media coverage and the fact that people like hearing about "bad" stuff as long as it isn’t "their" bad stuff.

However, it's not either/or. Evidence shows that both the reality and the perception must be addressed simultaneously…create awareness to fix the problem and address misperception by confronting inaccuracies and giving people the tools and information necessary to address "water cooler" talk.

We all learned this watching political campaigns. It's fine to talk about being "above it all," but it's been proven repeatedly that, if a maligned candidate doesn’t respond with equal intensity, it is assumed the charges are true. Silence is interpreted as assent, and it's true with the reputations of communities as well.

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