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Perception and EQ: Seeing the Full Picture

In many of our training sessions, we explore the power of perception.

Take a look at the picture below – how many black dots do you count?

There are 12 dots in the image, but most people can't see all 12 dots at once.

The black dot in the center of your vision should always appear, but the dots around it will likely appear and disappear. This is because we humans have pretty bad peripheral vision. If you focus on one dot, you'll notice everything around it is blurry. As a result, your brain has to make its best guess about what’s going on in the fuzzy periphery. Because there's a regular pattern of gray lines, your brain makes an assumption that it will be more of the same (gray lines) and therefore it "misses" the other black dots altogether.

Interestingly, our brains do this ALL of the time in everyday life. They take tiny bits of info and then instantly fill in the rest of the picture (based on guesswork and our conditioning, biases, etc). We see a facial expression in a work meeting and immediately make assumptions about a person's emotions. We read one line in an email from a client and start to tell a story about what they're thinking or feeling. We see a disturbing news headline and conclude that the world is ending. Tomorrow.

A critical part of building your EQ (and reducing emotional reactivity) is training your brain to pause and observe the whole picture.

With a mindset of curiosity, ask yourself these simple questions: "

  • Am I making any assumptions here that are influencing my perception?

  • Are they true?

  • Is my emotional state influencing my interpretation?

  • What am I missing?"

Asking these questions individually (or as a team at work) creates the little bit of space you need to perceive situations more accurately, check your emotions, and make more informed decisions.


Written by Rena Satre Meloy, Pause Cofounder


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