Look at the image to the left. Do you see a white pedestal vase, two facial silhouettes, or both?

Have you gotten an e-mail where you assumed the sender was angry or displayed some other negative emotion toward you? But, in reality, the sender harbored no ill will at all?

Hubby is my constant voice of reason. He’ll say something, but I’ll take it differently than he intended. When he asks why I’m upset, I’ll tell him my interpretation of his words. His reply is usually, “no, that’s how you perceived it. I didn’t mean it that way at all.”

Some of my perceptions come from my own self-esteem issues, or lack of self-confidence. Yeah, I have some baggage that gets repacked and carried around. I think we all do, to a point.

The way we perceive spoken words, e-mails, tones in conversations stems from who we are and our backstory. A person with low self-esteem may perceive another person’s words or actions in a negative way. A more confident person may have a different interpretation of the same conversation or action.

How would you perceive the following sentence:

“Fine, I’ll go to the store by myself.”

Are you reading as if the speaker said it in a annoyed or huffy manner? Or are you reading it as if the speaker said it in a positive, upbeat way.

Reading e-mails and social media messages tend to trigger different perceptions than the sender may have intended. Sometimes my friends will post something that has me wanting to keep my distance from them. When I question them later, more often than not, I read something into their tones that differed from their intent. Also, not knowing the entire conversation can affect the way we perceive messages.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re questioning someone’s emotions, ask that person if that was their intended tone, or if it was simply your perception of what that person was saying. Simply assuming someone is angry with you or Putting words or the wrong emotions in someone else’s mouth is destructive to relationships. Have faith and confidence in your own abilities, and then trust the other person by taking their words at face value. Communicate with that other person if you think there’s a problem.

“We can always choose to perceive things differently. You can focus on what’s wrong in your life, or you can focus on what’s right.” ~Marianne Williamson

Share Your Thoughts: Do you perceive tones, words, and emotions differently than was intended? Why? How do you react when this happens?

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  1. Kelly Freestone

    I took the statement up there negatively.
    I pictured someone slamming acar door and speeding off.

    My little brother was saying who loved him…"Mommy loves me, daddy loves me, Kelly loves me, Mrs. Rita loves me" he threw his hands up in the air, "everybody loves me!"
    I loved it…

    Now he's a teenager…lol

  2. Katie Ganshert

    Oh my goodness, yes. But usually, the voice of reason in my head can talk me away from the cliff when my illogical, overemotional, oversensitive voice is being its usual illogical, overemotional, oversensitive self. (if that made any sense). One more reminder why we have to be super duber careful with emails….they come without voice inflection, facial expressions….nada!

  3. Terry W. Ervin II

    Taking a phrase out of context of a conversation, or if it lacks tone/inflection (such as in an email) can, and does, often mislead the receiver of that bit of message.

    I try to count on the history I have with the individual to help me interpret in such situations.

  4. kathy taylor

    After recovering from a terrible illness, I began to work with an organization that helped people who have this disorder. So many emails were desperate, and I understood why. My previous suffering had taught me so much. You are so right: we just don't know "where" the author of the email is. A little bit of compassion on the reader's end goes a long way, and it can foster hope. Excellent topic, Lisa. I'm so glad you addressed it.