A realization hit me a couple of days back when I had a breakdown in my communication with a friend. I realized that I had never personally spoken to anyone in my life; I have only spoken to the perception that I have (of them) in my mind of.
I have an opinion about my colleague, lets call him R. In my mind I have a perception of R that gives me my opinions about him, his work, his communication, his skills, his spoken language etc. Everytime I want to speak to him about something, I can now notice myself organizing the thoughts, creating sentences, adjusting my tone and body language based on the perception I have of R. And all this happens even before I come face to face with him.
The same thing happens when I meet someone new. Everytime I meet someone new I almost immediately remember someone that looks like the person I just met, or has body language/voice/accent similar. So; that person I remember creates my perception for the new person I just met.
The racket here is that I want to be right about my perception of people. So it doesnt matter if I have to modify my conversation with them, or prove them wrong, or ignore them or lose self-expression; but it is big payoff for me to say – “I can figure people out”. To a large extent, I feel sad to admit that I have been manipulating my conversations with people to feed my perception of them.
I am not sure if I can ever stop creating/using perceptions of people. But from now on I will surely try to distinguish perception from real and choose to use either of them freely and take responsibility for it.