Monday, April 20, 2009

Perception is in the eye of the beholder

Do any of these slogans fit your perception of a Marine?

Is perception actual, or based on cliché?

A conversation a few days ago sent my thoughts back to the concept of perception, centering more upon persona this time. I am going to take another run at it from that direction.

Ever see a motion picture or television show where the cliché good cop / bad cop comes into play? Unless you never go to movies or sit in front of a TV, undoubtedly you have. It not only is a ploy used to get a suspect to talk, but sometimes it is the real thing simply because of the individual police officer's perception of how officers should act in public, should treat civilians on the street and should act around their colleagues.

Most of us have observed "on duty" police officers at work, possibly in a situation after personally being stopped for a traffic violation. Some officers are friendly and smiling, some are all business and straight faced, some act cocky and jaunty, some come on like Mr. Tough Guy and scowl. Officers are trained how to behave in public, but some develop their own habits and standards based on their own personalities, education and levels of experience -- their own perception of themselves.

This is true in all lines of work, I think, but it just seems more obvious (to me, at least) when encountering people in uniform.

Think Marine Corps. Another sample of T-shirt slogans offers illustrations of attitudes adopted by individual Marines. "Improvise Adapt Overcome" is a useful motto for members of the military and civilians alike, in any occupational area. "Defending Our Nation" is appropriate for all branches of service. "I Fight What You Fear" is pure Marine bravado, a shirt for only a zealot to wear. "Any Where Any Time -- Marines" and "Death Smiles at Everyone –- Marines Smile Back" could be taken as bravado, as well, and might be, but more likely reflect an attitude of pride in willingness to be the first into any battle. Those two sort of demonstrate another cliché, which is fighting for the buddy next to you more than for any nationalistic ideal. The final one, "Marines –- Death Before Dishonor" falls into a warrior ethos that has existed here and there since time began. It was a code followed by the Spartans at Thermopylae and most men, if not all, who fought and died at the Alamo.

The long and the short of this is that I do not think you would encounter many Marines who would wear all six of those T-shirts. Perceptions of what a Marine is (or should be) vary widely, even among the members of this rigorously trained and indoctrinated organization. Concepts, overlap, most certainly, but not all of the "Devil Dogs" think of themselves like that or act like that or want others to view them like that.

Which leads me back to the starting point: how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. The conversation which started me thinking about perceptions once again included discussion about shyness. I was told that I seemed to have considerable self-confidence and was very assertive in my behavior. My first thought was, no, I am more the quiet, withdrawn type.

Realization came an instant later that how I perceive myself in a given situation was the key. It all depended on what "role I was playing," which of my characters happened to be on stage at that moment in time.

As an "on duty" reporter, for instance, I can approach anyone (and often have) and ask any question, carrying with me a persona like I am the most important guy in the world and I am giving them a break simply by talking with them. If I were an "off duty” reporter, so to speak, and in a social situation and simply wanted to meet some of these same people, I doubt I would have the nerve to do it. I suppose the easy solution here (for me, at least) is to always think of myself as an "on duty" reporter.

This is my perception (beyond the chameleon characteristic) of what a "good reporter" should be –- assertive to the point of aggressiveness; confident to the point of arrogance; fearless to the point of recklessness. Sort of like a Marine, but with a pen and a notepad instead of a rifle. How others perceive me, I really never have thought about (or really cared about) in the past. I think I might now.

Music Note: Listening to Journey ....
Specifically, "Escape" ....
Some lines from "Stone in Love:"

Those summer nights are callin,
Stone in love
Can't help myself I'm fallin
Stone in love

Old dusty roads, led to the river
Runnin slow
She pulled me down, and in clover
We'd go round
In the heat with a blue jean girl
Burnin love comes once in a lifetime

Oooo the memories never fade away
Golden girl, I'll keep you forever


TheChicGeek said...

Hello Fram :) I like your post a lot today. It's interesting how we see ourselves on the inside and the world sees us so differently on the outside. I, myself am actually rather shy. I think people that really know me have experienced that of me. Usually people that don't know me as well don't know that. Maybe we let our guard down around people we feel a more personal connection with and allow ourselves to be more vunerable, or maybe we care more about what they think of us which makes us shy. I recently read that when you write, you should write as though no one but you will read what you say. I suppose that takes the fear element out of it and we get down to the truth of our feelings :) Maybe we just need to live life that way too. I don't really know the answer. I like all your T-shirts and I bet you look really cute in them all:D! I suppose Fram wears them all since he has a multiple personality? He's definitely multi-faceted...LOL
Have a Happy Day Today!

Rachael Cassidy said...

Write as if no one is reading- yes, I agree with ChicGeek. My best comes out when I assume no one will be privy to my innermost thoughts, observations, and ideas. I too have been faced with similiar multi-faceted aspects of perception. Though I started life fairly shy- I certainly grew to care less about what people thought of me and more about just being "me," regardless of what other's perception was. I have found that this is the most true to my core, innermost "self" and those in my life have been more than receptive. I will agree there is a fine line to walk regarding appearing as cocky, arrogant, or overconfident. I have been told that I am like an oak tree, roots deep in the earth, scarred and swaying in the winds of my life, but strong and ever-growing regardless. I like this analogy, and amazingly enough, the solo oak tree, gnarled and vibrant, has always- ALWAYS- been my favorite tree. I'd like to live up to that perception for the rest of my days.
ps... I work with many "in uniform," and your observation of their differing personas is spot-on. Many of them shed that persona as soon as the uniform is put away. My friend Mark is the best at that. No one would ever guess he is an ex-FBI agent and long time officer of the law in his day to day life. Chalk up one more reason I feel about him the way I do.... master chameleon in all the best ways.
Great post, Friend Fram!

Katy said...

Hi Fram. Great post and there's a lot I want to say here - but I'm too tired right now so will come back again in the morning. Night night :-)

Fram said...

I have seen Fram wear any number of T-Shirts at a gathering that extended from afternoon into the evening, Kelly. I am not certain if it was because he is multi-faceted or because he is continually spilling drinks and food all over himself. These wolf boys tend to be a little messy on occasion.

I usually become very friendly very easily with others in a relatively short period of time, but I think the only ones who really know me are those who I have spent a considerable number of hours with over a few years' time.

I have heard the advice about writing as though no one other than yourself will read it. I can do that with some topics; and either cannot or will not with other topics. The anonymity that is available in blogdom makes it easier for many to write more freely, I am certain.

Fram said...

There might be any number of reasons for holding back thoughts and feelings when a person writes in a public setting. Sometimes, a writer might think he will hurt another's feelings by "saying" too much. Sometimes, a writer might think he will harm his own career. In the end, I think it is best for the writer to establish his own "comfort zone," being as open as possible but not going beyond the point where he might worry about it.

One of the nice things about leaving teen years behind (and the 20s, for that matter), is part of what you were saying, Rachael. A person tends to be more himself / herself, and less worried about what others might think.

Your comments about your friend were enlightening. I think the wisest people are those who have the ability to separate their "on duty" and their "off duty" personas.

Fram said...

Hi there, Katy ....

It always is nice to see you. One of my own habits is to read, and to come back later for another read and to make a comment. It takes a while (for me, anyway) to absorb. Take your time.

Natalie said...

Can I read it later?? :)

“being alive is being on a holiday….” – so true… I often remind myself how fortunate I am to walk this Earth, how privileged I am to make some people smile… and when they do smile and happy, I cry…
Thank you, Fram

Fram said...

Sure you can read it later, Natalie. It will be right on top at least for another day.

I hope you do read it, and maybe leave a few of your thoughts about self-perception and the perception of others.

Natalie said...

Mr. Fram,
My view on Perception….
Since you have mentioned the Spartans, I have a counter question: What (one of) the best chocolates in the world and king Leonidas have in common???
Hearing the name of Leonidas, it’s not the "Come and get them!" comes to mind, but a box of exquisite & extremely expensive chocolates…. – what is your perception on that?

Magdalena said...

I love the song below! :-) Have a nice day, Fram, bye, bye :-)

Fram said...

You are like a politician, Natalie. Instead of answering a question, you ask one back.

Your question sounds more like a riddle, and one to which I have no meaningful answer. You like dead Spartan kings and expensive chocolate(?), or maybe Leonidas also is the name of an exquisite chocolate(?), are my responses.

Fram said...

It is a beautiful song, isn't it, Magdalena? I can understand why you love it. I love your presence when you visit here.

Natalie said...

A politician or a diplomat? I prefer the latter!

What’s the sense of asking the question or answering them for that matter, if most of the time we (all of us!!) don’t agree or don’t like the answer????
To confirm my point, here’s one funny saying, “Two Jews – three opinions!”

Fram said...

I began a blog for one primary purpose, Natalie, which was to collect thoughts, opinions and reactions to what I wrote. In a word, to learn. As I have stated several times along the way, anything beyond that would be a bonus.

I do like your "funny saying," though, but since I am sort of a WASP and not a young lady who was clever enough to escape New York City, I suppose it is politically incorrect for me to say so.

Natalie said...

Fram Framovich!!
In what way did I escape New York City – by not becoming a true (whatever that means!!) New Yorker?!?!?

Collecting thoughts and opinions is nice. But those who does not agree with our thoughts/statements are rarely comment (with one exception in your case!)
Those who is brave/confident enough to comment & not intimidated by you (hha-ha!), in general, do agree with you or like what they perceive, or want to be liked and accepted by you. It is a bazaar, in a way – everyone, seller or buyer, must feel …a winner!

P.S. In a way, it is a Rehab where people looking to find a cure or even rehabilitate themselves in their own eyes….

A Cuban In London said...

And the key phrase is: 'to the point of'. It's ever so hard to achieve balanca, isn't it?

Many thanks. mate.

Greetings from London.

Fram said...

You have some valid points, Natalie.

The sea of blogs is many things for many people. We each come here for our own reasons and, hopefully, we each will leave here having found whatever we seek.

Fram said...

You are absolutely right, CiL.

And, what makes this particularly difficult is that it is not science, and definitions are varied rather than absolutes. What might be defined as confidence to me might be viewed as arrogance by the next person.

Magdalena said...

Me to :-)

Katy said...

I'm sorry it's taken me longer than I expected to come back Fram. A lunch out with friends yesterday that continued well into the evening meant that I had used up my day's quota of words before I touched the computer :-)

Of identity and perception then. I think (like your T-shirts) one draws one's identity (or part of it) at any given moment from the circumstances in which one finds oneself. The other part is drawn from the deep well that contains elements of upbringing, genetics, beliefs, values, experiences, passions, opportunities, culture, and the era in which one lives. To what extent is identity fixed? I'm not sure, but the elements of the latter are often more permanent than those of the former.

I really identify with your take on self perception, or perception of self by others. It is interesting to gain an insight ocassionally into how others see us isn't it and how we see ourselves. The first of these is I think more linked with circumstantial identity, the latter with our more immutable fixed nature after we attain a certain age. I think we often spend a lot of time in our teens and twenties having concerns about what others might think of us. Certainly at 40 now I don't give 2 hoots about what others think of me. A true expression of freedom of a kind :-)

Fram said...

I see you there, Magdalena ....

Fram said...

I see that you are in thinking mode tonight, Katy. I almost missed you here, not always looking back after I have posted a new entry. (Looking back = I once wrote a local/regional history column and called it "Looking Backward." Not much imagination there.)

I think I could take the concept of "self-perception" and spread it like the branches of a tree off into increasingly obscure elements which, no matter how obscure, have a role to play in our role-playing.

Thank you, for the extra effort in returning to give me your thoughts. I appreciate it.

Something special ....