Perceptions: What if you were wrong?

   Perception  Imagine this:

A man and woman…. (I will call the woman Mrs Mwansa and the man Mr Kunda.)

The two have just winded up their long meeting at Arcades and Mrs. Mwansa excuses herself to go to the ‘ladies room.’ She asks Mr Kunda to watch her things while she’s away and he agrees. When she returns, she notices Mr Kunda’s sudden strange behaviour: he avoids meeting her eyes and he’s face is almost turning red from blushing. The two of them say their goodbyes – with Mr Kunda still behaving awkwardly. Not one to entertain misunderstandings, Mrs Mwansa decides to confront the elephant in the room.

“Is something the matter Sir?” She asked. “Ever since I came back from…from the bathroom, you’ve been acting…how should I call it…weird? Did something happen while I was away?”

Because she was standing, Mr Kunda quickly reasoned that it would be best for him to express what was on his mind standing, and he did likewise. He moved to where she was standing, leaned in a bit and whispered the following words; “I am very sorry to have to do this…the truth is…I really don’t know if I am supposed to say anything or not…and I beg your pardon for this…but…your zipper is open. I am very sorry.” And he quickly pulled his head away, blushing profusely.

First instinct for Mrs Mwansa was to look down and there it was, very open! She suddenly remembered why after only wearing it once since she bought it four months ago, she had never worn that skirt again. However, when she came across it that morning, she only thought about how perfect it would look with her new blouse and forgot about the most crucial factor. Feeling embarrassed from head to toe, her hands first moved to cover her mouth and then quickly moved to close the zipper. She looked around her to see if people were looking at her. Mostly, they all seemed to be minding their own business but it was when her eyes moved to the entrance of the restaurant that she realized they had an actual audience.

It was her husband. And he was not a very pleased audience.

She could picture the things going on in his head. Knowing very well what kind of man he was, she knew she was in trouble. Where would she even start? She wondered how long he had been standing there. Where was she going to start explaining from? Would he even believe her? She looked over at Mr Kunda who was absolutely oblivious of her husband’s presence. He was still looking like a boy who had been caught red-handed with his hands in the cookie jar. She cursed the guilty look on his face.

For the four years she had known him, despite being a genius in his work, Mr Kunda was generally an awkward and clumsy man…except, his condition always seemed to worsen whenever he was in the company of a female.

“I should go now; my husband is here to pick me up.” She informed the once light skinned man whose complexion had now turned a shade yet to be included in the colour spectrum. When Mr Kunda followed the direction of his colleague’s eyes, his first reaction was to take a step back away from Mrs Mwansa, a move that led to his leg getting stuck in one of the chair and landing his bottom to the very floor.

When will I stop being so clumsy for Christ’s sake, he thought to himself as he quickly picked himself up.  By this time, Mr Mwansa had reached their table and before Mr Kunda could stand up straight, he was dealt a punch that sent him back to floor.

How did things end up like that?

The answer is Perception.

Perception has been defined to mean the process individuals go through to organize and interpret their sensory impressions in order to give meaning to their environment.

I recently learnt this during one of my classes;

People’s behavior is based on their perception of what reality is, not on reality itself.

As most of my close friends already know, not only am I a book fanatic, I am also addicted to dramas. So I was watching a certain drama when one of the actresses told this story that left me thinking about the many times I might have misinterpreted reality and ended up paying for it. Although not exact, this is what I was able to pick up from that scenario:

There was a family that had an old woman who was very sick and needed to be on a special diet. The family was very poor so every little healthy food they found was always left for the patient. One day, the youngest child in the family was passing through when from a distance, she saw her mother standing by the stove and eating the rice that was meant for the old sick woman.

That day, neither the rest of the family nor the sick woman had eaten any rice. From that day forward, the girl grew up believing that her mother was very selfish and their relationship was strained since.

However, what the girl did not know or see the day she saw her mother eating the rice by the stove is that her mother was not actually eating the rice meant for the patient. They were old burnt… (wait, can I call them that?)… anyway, in simpler terms – it was rice that had somehow fallen into the ashes of the stove as it was being cooked a few days before. It was not food that could be served to anybody, especially a patient. The woman had come across the rice as she was cleaning the stove and after starving for days whilst taking care of her family, she decided to eat those instead of throwing them away.

After listening to that story and after learning a bit about perception, I decided that whenever I am faced with a situation that might be open to different interpretations; I should consider things from varying angles before drawing a conclusion…especially if it’s a conclusion that might not be favourable. After all, wouldn’t it better to know that you did your very best before giving up on something? There is always that possibility….what if you are wrong?

In life, we are forever drawing conclusions and suspicions based on how we perceive things. That’s the reality. But are the things we perceive reality itself?

I think he/she likes me.

S/he’s flirting with me that one, obviously.

S/he must hate me.

s/he doesn’t like me.

I think s/he is having an affair.

I am going to fail that exam.

Etc…etc

The truth is that with perception, sometimes we might be right…and sometimes we might be wrong. But, is there ever a middle ground? I don’t know. However, the fact is that we draw conclusions based on our schemata – our experiences that have structured us into behaving and reacting in certain way.

Can we say then that how we react to circumstances and how we interpret them tells us more about who we are than what those in the situation are – vis-à-vis Mr Mwansa’s reaction? How many times do you think you have held someone responsible for a wrong doing based on your own perceptions and ultimately destroyed what could have been a great relationship or friendship? Do we ever take time to see things from other people’s point of view or we are too quick to draw conclusions based on what we perceive to be the reality? By the way, what exactly is reality?

Sometimes…not everything is as it seems.

And it is always best not be self-centered.

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