Perception Checking


Last week I met with Bella, so as to finalize the ceremony for her wedding later this month. When I asked if she still had six bridesmaids, she told me she’s down to five. Seems one of them didn’t make the bridal shower and didn’t tell her beforehand. Since this wasn’t the first time the bridesmaid flaked on a wedding related date, Bella told her that since she didn’t have her back, there was no point in having her remain in the wedding party.

Bella didn’t ask her friend why she’d been consistently flaking on her bridesmaid’s duties. She told me she didn’t have time for drama or excuses. Bella’s actually not a Bridezilla and believed her decision was the honest thing to do. But was it the only thing she could have done?

Oftentimes, what is most obvious is not most true. Bella dismissed her friend without finding out what was going on — was she a thoughtless flake or was there another explanation?

If someone is acting in ways that confuse or frustrate you, rather than presuming they don’t care, take the time to do something that’s known as Perception Checking.

Bella presumed her bridesmaid flaked because she didn’t care, but Bella doesn’t know the real reason because she never checked what was going on. She didn’t check her perceptions.

Perception Checking has four steps:

Ask the person for some time to talk — in person. If not, then by phone. Don’t try this via email or text!

Describe for the person the pattern of behavior that’s confusing you — no judgments or interpretations — just the facts. For instance, in Bella’s situation, her bridesmaid didn’t go with her when she picked out her dress, she didn’t help with the shower, etc.

Offer TWO possible interpretations for why the pattern is happening. Bella could have said, “I don’t know if work has been busy for you and you haven’t been able to get away or if I’ve done something to hurt you.”

Then ask the person to clarify. Bella could have confided with, “I’m confused and I want to make sure that you do have my back, so what’s going on?”

If the person says “nothing,” then repeat the steps: state the pattern, offer other possible interpretations, and explain why it’s important you understand what’s going on.

Does all this sound stilted to you? Well, in a way it is since most of us are not taught this skill while growing up. We learn to be quick to judge.

These four steps, though, will decrease the chances that the person will become defensive and increase the chances that she or he will engage you in open conversation.

Please send your questions to JP Reynolds at:

Follow me on Twitter: @jprweddings

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