Perception is Reality: Alternate Realities Do Exist


You’ve heard the adage: Perception Is Reality.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it rings true outside of sci-fi and super-hero realms in the comic books. It exists in virtually every agency. Every business. And, in every relationship.

Following are some common situations where this comes into play.

What you need to realize and accept is that how someone views you or a situation is extremely important. Because it is ‘real’ to them. And, if you don’t deal with that ‘alternate reality’, you will have to deal with the consequences, at some point in time.

#1 You mention that you voted for a Republican or Democrat in the latest, national election. — You think that you voted for a specific candidate, not a political party. You see nothing wrong in sharing that info. — Others might assume that you are a fan of that party. That you share all of their platform. Their treatment of you will be skewed based upon this info.

#2 You have a relative or close friend who works at the same agency. — You got the position based upon your merits. But, you did hear about the job opening from them. — Others only see patronage at work. A valid reason, in their minds, to shun you.

#3 You frequently agree with your boss. — You both share common work ethics. You believe in the same management-employee styles. — Others see only a ‘kiss-ass’. And decide not to trust you with any of their personal reflections regarding the boss and their management techniques.

#4 You eat lunch by yourself, rather than with the others. — You work long hours. Perhaps you have multiple jobs. A stressful home life. So that you relish having some time to yourself. No distractions. No need to be a conversationalist. Just you, your food, and perhaps the newspaper/tablet. — Others could see you as being anti-social. Perhaps as someone who feels that they are better than their co-workers.

#5 You wear tight fitting clothes that show off your body. — You work out. You are single. You feel better and more energized when you wear flattering clothing. — Others think that you are ‘advertising’ your availability, sexually. You might be ‘hit on’ because of this. Or, others might simply whisper about your inappropriate attire.

#6 You work long hours. Well past the normal shift requirements. — You do it because it takes you longer to perform certain tasks than others. Or, you enjoy the work so much, that you lose track of time. — Others see someone who is attempting to show them up.

#7 During meetings, you are quiet. Seldom offer any input. You don’t hang around the break room chit-chatting. — You prefer to exhibit what you believe to be a ‘proper’ work decorum. But, outside of work, you can be a real party animal. At least, someone who others enjoy the company of. — Others see you as a shy, workaholic who they would rather not invite to join them at the local watering hole.

#8 You seldom contribute to any of the multiple office collections. And, when you do, it’s a small amount of money. — Your finances are stretched to the max. You have medical bills up the ying-yang. Or, you and your spouse are saving up to buy a home. Or, you send your struggling, retired folks money, each month. — They see a cheapskate who doesn’t really want to fit in. And, someone who cares little about their fellow co-workers.

#9 You talk a lot about your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or children. Their accomplishments. Or failures. Or, what they are into. Any awards that they received. — You love them. You’re proud of them. And, they are a vital part of your life. — Others see you as rubbing their nose in the fact that they might be divorced, childless, or lonely. States of being that they would rather change. Exchange for what you have in your life.

#10 You sign-up for every possible training activity. You ask to go to conferences. Even when you have to pay for them, yourself. — You are ambitious. You want to get ahead in the agency. You want to ‘make a name’ for yourself. — Others see someone who is trying to ‘show them up’, by volunteering for all of these activities. They perceive all ambition to be bad.

Bottom-line: You need to develop a sense that tells you how others perceive you and your behaviors. Both personal and work-related. – Once you have a handle on that, you can decide how best to react to their perceptions. Because doing nothing about this ‘alternate universe’ that exists, will likely lead to more problems than you would like to have in your life.

‘Nuff said.

Russell A. Irving is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Dave Barton

Russell, I enjoyed reading your post. Assumptions always seem to get people in trouble, and while I don’t advocate conforming to peoples’ perceptions, it’s definitely worth being aware of them.

Russell A. Irving

Thank you for the kind words, Dave. My primary point as you noted, is that it is important to be aware of others’ perceptions.


This is such a great article. I have identified 2,3,4 and 9 and can match them to specific co-workers. You are on target, Enjoyed reading.