The International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences says studying the science of perception is “the attempt to understand those aspects of observations of the world of things and people that depend on the nature of the observer." Because each person has his own perception of the world and his immediate surroundings, it can at times create communication conflicts. To familiarize yourself with the concept and understand how to recognize when differing perceptions are affecting your communication efforts, try one of these activities.
Before trying perception activities for groups, try a self-perception exercise. First, think about a conversation you had with another person not too long ago. Based on the conversation, make your own communication model. Identify and write the elements of the conversation. The elements are:
- The people communicating
- The source of the message
- The receiver of the message
- The information in the message
- The medium in which the message was sent through
- The noises present during message transmission and the physical environment in which the conversation took place.
Once you have identified these elements, take some time to reflect on how each component impacted the conversation.
This exercise helps people understand how perceptions can differ even when the information given to them and their colleagues is exactly the same. Split a large group into teams of three people and give each person a sheet of paper and pen. Write three famous quotes on a board or a flipchart that everyone can see. When possible, choose quotes linked to the professional environment of the participants.
Give each group 15 minutes to come up with a one-sentence explanation about each quote as well as two examples of how each quote relates to their current job. When time is up, have each team select a leader who will read aloud their group's interpretation of each quote and the examples they found. Encourage participants to discuss how each group’s interpretation of the quotes is similar or different depending on individual perception.
The “What am I holding?” activity relies on an individual’s ability to recognize objects without seeing them. It also highlights the importance of perception and attention to detail in leadership. You will need paper and pen for each person and a collection of 10 random objects such as a mug, car keys or a wallet. Keep the objects hidden in a cardboard box.
Select the participants randomly and ask each to take a turn and focus on an object in the box. The person has one minute to describe the object using characteristics such as shape, color, texture and size. The describer is not allowed to mention the purpose or the material of the item. During the description time, the others write down what they think the item is. After all of the items have been described, ask the listerners to share their guesses and compare them with the actual object.
Bournemouth University suggests a group exercise that shows the impact varying perceptions have on the ability to clearly communicate. Have group members complete an online sensory test, such as the the sensory preference self test from Louisiana State University, available on their website.
In a group, discuss your scores and feedback with each other. Explain to participants the complexities of perceptual process when communicating with others. Practice using sentences that start with “My perception of you is” or “Your perception of me is." This exercise should help members learn how misunderstandings happen.