Noticing Our Perceptions: The Power of Speaking Reality As It Is

Have you ever tried to tell someone how you felt, only to find yourself in an argument moments later?

It's frustrating when we express our dissatisfaction with the hope of building something new together, but all that happens is more tension and less connection. Many of us resign either to endure things we don't enjoy to avoid the risk of conflict by ending communication altogether or arguing our way through them - and, obviously, both options suck.

What if I told you there was a switch (not button) you could flip that would drastically change these conversations? Simple doesn't mean easy, but thankfully I have some solutions for that too 😉


Opinions Mixed as Facts

Most of us communicate using our subjective perceptions as facts - these are scientifically known as “opinions”, though colloquially we call them “the truth.” We say things like, “I’m just an honest person,” or “I’m gonna be straightforward with you.” But what we're really doing is inserting subtle judgments that weaken our message and give the other person a reason to defend themselves.

An example of a subtle judgment or interpretation is, “you’re not listening.” At first glance, you might think, “what’s wrong with that? Sometimes that’s the case, sometimes people don’t listen.” The thing is, we can’t know for sure if someone is listening, because listening happens internally. What we can do is make educated guesses - let’s call them assumptions - about whether someone is listening or not based on what we see or hear. In this case, perhaps the person is looking at their phone while we speak, so we say, “you’re not listening!”, they respond, “yes I am!”, and the ping pong “no, you’re not” “yes, I am” begins. However, all we can say for certain is, “hey, I see you typing on your phone” and follow up with how we feel (coming in another article!)

Facts (or observations) are entirely neutral and their neutrality becomes a great asset when describing "what happened" in a way that supports resolution rather than escalation. As Jiddu Krishnamurti, the Indian philosopher once said, "the highest form of intelligence is the ability to observe without evaluating."


The Solution

The secret? Be able to explain what happened in terms anyone would understand - as if they're watching through the lens of a camera and the "ears" of a microphone. A camera doesn't see you "being rude", but it can record that "your eyes rolled when I finished speaking." Similarly, a microphone cannot hear you "being sarcastic"; yet it does pick up "your tone changed when you said you agreed with me."

When I say "you don't care about me," you probably won't know what I'm talking about since nothing was explicitly stated about the context. But if instead I were to say, "I told you that I wanted you to take out the garbage today and the garbage hasn't been taken out yet," now you'll know where this particular discussion - and my feelings about it - stem from.


These 3 Questions are the Key

Here’s the key to stepping out of evaluation-colored language into reality-based expression. Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Could (not “does”) another perspective, opinion or description ever exist about this?
    • If the answer is “yes” then what you said (or thought) likely isn’t objective.
  2. Can this be seen by a camera? 
    • If the answer is “no”, chances are it’s not a genuine observation. In that case, ask yourself, ”what would the camera see?”
  3. Can this be heard by a microphone?
    • If the answer is “no”, it’s probably not a fact. Follow up with, “what would the microphone hear?”

The trick is that we describe what we experienced with our senses, rather than what we make it mean with our minds. We could also check in with our other sense organs, though what we see and hear are what make up the bulk of our interactions with others,



Take the expression, “you’re being lazy” for example. It’s tempting to think, “yup, that’s right, some people are lazy.” Let’s check with our questions:

  1. Could (not “does”) another perspective, opinion or description ever exist about this?
    • That person could be described as “relaxed,” “easygoing,” “self-caring,” etc, see what I mean? This lets us know we’re in the realm of personal opinion rather than the realm of reality as reality is.
  2. Can this be seen by a camera? 
    • No. The camera sees, “there are clothes and plates with moldy food on your floor.”
  3. Can this be heard by a microphone?
    • No. The microphone hears, “you said that you ‘don’t feel like it’ 3 times this week when I asked if you’d clean up your room.”



Because we all experience life differently, understanding each other and navigating tough conversations is key. However, in order to effectively navigate these difficult conversations, it's necessary to find some common ground first. This begins by describing what happened/the-topic-at-hand in a way that minimizes defensiveness and confusion and maximizes the chances both parties understand fully what's being discussed

To do this, we need to check whether our messages contain language that masquerades subjective interpretations as definitive facts. If they do, the next step is to find words that describe the situation from the perspective of a camera and a microphone, meaning there is no personal opinion mixed in - YET! (Expressing our feelings is the next step, which you can read more about in this article.)

If it seems daunting to think of separating opinion from reality, don’t worry, it gets easier over time, and the benefits are well worth the effort!

To learn more about how to identify objective and evaluative language, check out my masterclass replay found at the pop-up on this page.

(You’ll probably need to refresh the page to get it again.)