I’m sure we’ve all come across this at some point in our lives. We know the truth of what happened – whether it was something we did (ourselves), or something that someone else did. We experienced it ourselves, and with our own eyes. Yet somehow, someone else may have perceived it another way.

I’ve experienced it for years at work (as well as other times), myself. It didn’t matter where I was working. And when something was brought to my attention, perhaps during an evaluation, it always seemed so distorted to me that they would have seen it that way, or didn’t see it the way I experienced it: I arranged a gathering flawlessly, but they saw errors that I should have caught; I thought a project went perfectly, yet they thought it could have been done better. For years, it would bother me that they were wrong and they couldn’t see it. It wasn’t until the past couple of years that this truth finally rang true: Despite what you know, it’s always perception that matters.

Now, I’m not saying that perception is always correct – that’s something entirely different. No, it’s not always correct, but it is what always matters and what the majority of people will generally believe. Viewing this in a work atmosphere – especially in the setting of a yearly evaluation – the worst thing we can do is to convince ourselves that everything we know is truth and that everyone else will see things as we do. Hearing from others (our boss, our supervisors, our co-workers, even our friends) can show us how we are perceived outside of ourselves. It’s similar to knowing what our voices sound like to our own ears, then hearing it on a recording. Remember the first time you heard your own voice recorded, or saw yourself on video for the first time? It’s always incredulous how we sound or look. “OMG! That’s not me!

Put into another context, a friend of mine once told me about a conversation he had with a woman-friend of a clergyman. For years there was a well-known rumour that the clergyman was gay. Thinking his woman-friend would know best, he asked her if it was true or not. She merely answered, “No matter what I tell you, people will still believe what they want.

I think about the discussions I’ve had with friends, family, employers, etc. At a few times, it was rather refreshing to hear from them how they saw me – or perceived me. At other times, it was alarming or even shocking to hear how opposite their view was from my own. Yet, in any of these cases, we should be able to take what we hear with a grain of salt – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Beyond all of this, what we should remember is that it’s actually futile to try to change others’ opinions of us (no matter how wrong they are!).

And every time I start explaining my side of the story, I remember that woman’s answer: “No matter what I tell you, people will still believe what they want.

Despite what you know, it’s always perception that matters.