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Managing Perception vs. Perspective Onboard


First of all, let’s establish the difference - perception is your understanding and/or interpretation of people, situations and the world around you – it’s your mental impression. Perspective, on the other hand, is the angle you are looking from – it’s your point of view.

Understanding this and how it affects the way we interact with each other is very important as it helps develops self-awareness and tolerance while facilitating compromise. This is never more important than when you live and work with others in a highly pressurised and physically challenging environment – a key example being yachting.

Let’s explore the subject and how we can apply this knowledge on a practical level:


This is the way you perceive the world around you. Recognition and interpretation of sensory information such as sound and smells is very personal and unique to each of us based on our experiences, values and our personality. Our perception will also influence how we respond to things.

Because perception is so personal, there will always be some level of subjectivity, and there are many filters through which we experience reality, among them:

• Role Models
• Beliefs
• Judgements
• Biases
• Experiences
• Preferences

Sara 3It’s really hard to be objective sometimes because all those years of conditioning and programming are deeply rooted. It’s even more difficult the more people that are involved because each person is unique in their perception which will always create some level of subjectivity.

Consider this example. In my travels around the world I have always been fascinated by the humble breakfast buffet. Who eats curry, salad and noodles for breakfast? That’s crazy right?? Well if you’re Asian then it’s normal – and as a Brit, my penchant for pork products, mushrooms and beans for breakfast is positively hideous to others. Something as simple as our breakfast choices demonstrates the complexity of perception and how we view things through our own filters and lenses.

So, who is right?

We all are, and the compromise in most international hotels and resorts is to accommodate all tastes, without judgement. We could learn a lot from the international breakfast buffet.

Changing your perceptions of a situation can change your perspective

Let’s say you’re a person who believes that being extroverted makes you more popular and that those people are more successful. In this scenario, if you were uncomfortable and awkward in social situations, you would have the perception that you were a failure and perhaps that people didn’t like you as much. However, if you changed your perception of what was required to be successful, it could change your perspective.

But can you shift someone else’s perspective?

Yes. It is certainly possible to shift a person’s perspective on an issue assuming you are able establish and understand why they feel the way they do. What are the perceptions and beliefs that are giving them a particular perspective? Once those perceptions are clear, you can begin to change their perspective by first acknowledging their right to them, and then sharing yours and reminding them that you have the right to your view too.

Sara 2

People will hold onto their beliefs and perceptions tightly so be careful how you approach this because they have a right to them. The important thing for us to remember when we are living and working together on-board and dealing with our crewmates’ perceptions and perspectives is that it’s not who you are but what you do that matters. If your behaviour, or that of your crewmates, is not serving you or the boat, is causing conflict or putting people at risk, then you have the right to challenge it. See our article on feedback for tips to help you to do that here - it’s easier than you might think!

Though similar, perception and perspective stand on their own and knowing the difference can help you pinpoint areas you need to improve. Perception is what you interpret - it is your understanding of a given situation, person, or object. It is the meaning you assign to any given stimulus. Perspective is your point of view - it’s the lens you see the world through and determines how you view yourself, others, and everything else around you.

So, if reality is the objective truth, we need to understand that ours is not the only perception and stand back and look at situations from the perspective of another or others to establish the bigger picture. Having an open mind and consciously shelving your judgement will give you a greater chance of success in any situation that requires resolution.

Wars, political turmoil, conflict and broken relationships are the worst-case scenarios if we are not prepared to accept the perception and perspective of others, and trust, respect and harmony are the pay-offs for compromise and mutual acceptance.

The difference between perception and perspective seems visible on the surface but they are closely intertwined. Learn how to change your (or others) perception, and you can change almost anything.

Images: Pixabay, Pexels


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