A Three-Step Perception Checking Tool

In the last post, we looked at the ways we receive and perceive information and how our perception system can fall victim to inaccuracy. Naturally, this will affect communication.

Given that, wouldn’t it be great to have a simple three-step method in your communication toolbox for checking out your perceptions while in dialogue with another.

You could pull out this simple tool and use it before misunderstandings (minor or major) derailed a conversation.

I have just such a method I would like to share with you today, and here it is: The handy dandy perception checking three-step tool.

  1. Provide feedback to the other person on what you are seeing, hearing, or understanding.
  2. Give at least two possible interpretations.
  3. Make a request for clarification on how the other person would like you to understand things.

A couple of examples may be helpful.

Yesterday you saw your best friend sitting in the local Starbucks having what looked like a pretty intense conversation with a guy (or gal) named Chris whom you have just started dating.

Perception-Checking Statement:

When I saw you talking with Chris at Starbucks I didn’t know what to make of it. I thought you might be talking about work, but I also wondered whether you were coming on to Chris. Is Chris a friend or is it more than that?

That should clear things up – unless of course your best friend is coming on to Chris. But really, isn’t it better that you know?

You’ve just come home. Your partner is clearly giving you the cold shoulder. You ask what’s wrong, and the only answer you get is, “Nothing’s wrong. You’re always asking if something is wrong. Maybe something’s wrong with you.”

Perception-Checking Statement:

I hear you saying nothing is wrong, but I feel like I’m getting the cold shoulder and you look and sound upset. I’m wondering if it’s because I’m home later than I said I would be, or maybe it is something else entirely. Please tell me what’s up.

By using this three-step method, you get to give some feedback on how you understand another’s actions or words in a way that saves face on both sides. Win, win, right?

I’m not saying this perception check isn’t a tricky thing to pull off. You have to be sincere in your approach. You’re primary goal has to be to understand, not to score points or get even in some way. That will be quickly discerned on the part of the other, and you’ll be in a worse position of communication than you started.

A couple of points to keep in mind:

  • It isn’t always necessary to use all three steps, but the higher the emotional charge in a given situation the more complete you should strive to deliver the perception check
  • Your nonverbal messages must connect with a sincere desire to check in with the other person and openness to listening to what they have to say. If you are using a disgruntled, angry, or condescending tone or body language, the perception check is going to fall flat on its face.

I invite you to go out and practice a bit with these three steps. As always, get curious about what happens when you try this out. How does the other person react? Is there a change in the usual pattern of communication? Let me know how it goes.


(This photo was taken at the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden, near Weed, CA.)

Bye for now.

About francisguenette

Writer, blogger and author of the Crater Lake Series.
This entry was posted in Communication, Communication skills, Counselling, Photography, Self Help, Teaching and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A Three-Step Perception Checking Tool

  1. Pingback: Responding Non-Defensively to Criticism | Saying What Matters

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