We see what we expect to see?

Is it true that we don’t see what we don’t expect to see?

In 1714, the British Government offered a prize for a method to measure longitude at sea, and in 1761 a working-class joiner, John Harrison, designed a system that proved accurate on a long voyage to Jamaica. But the scientific establishment refused to believe that a mere carpenter could beat the best scientific minds of the day and didn’t accept the evidence, correct as it was – or award him the prize. They just couldn’t see him as the winner.

In 1865 a Moravian monk, Gregor Mendel, presented to the scientific community important discoveries about the laws of inheritance in plants – through studying pea plants (29,000 of them!). But his paper was ignored, and only ‘rediscovered’ in 1900 by three European scientists. The establishment just couldn’t see that a provincial monk who merely studied peas as the author of such an important break through.

Barry Marshall, a pathologist down in Perth, Australia was ridiculed by the scientific community when he suggested in 1981 that stomach ulcers were caused by bacteria. At the time, experts were certain that ulcers were caused by stress, greasy food, or too much alcohol, so how could an obscure pathologist know better? They couldn’t see it. Fed up with the non-acceptance of his ideas, Marshall eventually drank a petri dish of the bacteria and gave himself an ulcer to prove the point. He survived to win the Nobel Prize for his work a quarter of a century later, in 2005.

How little information it takes to persuade us of what we think we know!

I attended 20 days of NLP training in a large group a decade ago, and there was one delegate whose rigid neck (1), high nostrils (2) and formal dress (3) spelled arrogance to me. So I was not happy when on day 19, serendipity at last threw us together for an exercise. The exercise involved sharing elements of our history, and the next hour was one of the most informative of my life. His story of a troubled upbringing, early loss, war danger, escapes across frontiers, the deaths of several of his family and other horrors made his very survival seem like a miracle and made a mockery of my earlier snap judgement. With a changed attitude, I suddenly noticed all sorts of different features about him and felt immense admiration and respect.

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.
Wayne Dyer

In a previous job, an interview panel selected a confident extrovert candidate for a management position, who however changed his plans and didn’t take up the offer. So, reluctantly, the panel offered the job on a trial basis to the only other half-decent candidate, a shy, underfed-looking young man. He turned out to be outstanding in the job, was quickly offered a permanent contract, and went on to transform both performance and morale in the department. It really made the panel question their interview techniques – the quick underlying judgement in the interview had been shy = ineffective and underfed-looking = weak.

When I coach people for interviews, I often emphasize that how you come across verbally and non-verbally is taken as the direct equivalent of how you will do the job. How odd to make such a firm direct link between presentation and on-the-job competence, but most interviewers do it!

Over-quick judgement of self too

I think we make negative quick judgements about ourselves too – we call it self-knowledge. We say to ourselves, ‘I’m not really a people person’, or ‘I’m too sensitive’ or ‘I’m not really management material’, and those judgements, constantly repeated internally, become the self we show to the world and the self we believe we are.

“We don’t know what we see; we see what we (think we) know.” Goethe

How arrogant we are if we think that glorious human beings can be summed up in so few words. We are so much more than that.

Perhaps we can emulate the poet e.e.cummings who writes of waking up one morning suddenly vibrantly alive to what is (read This Amazing Day – its energy is catching). The poem ends:

now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened.

Yes – I want that.


Voice of Influence News

NLP Diploma – Module 1: Communication & Relationships,
28 Feb-1 Mar

In this first 2-day module of the NLP Diploma you’ll learn much about perception, what makes people tick and what makes you tick – and lots more on improving your communication and relationships at work, home and leisure. The 2 other modules are: Leadership & Influence and Coaching & Change, and the NLP DIploma leads on the to NLP Practitioner.

The small-group training is informal, enjoyable and practical. And the results are truly outstanding and life changing (that’s the feedback I get again and again from participants).

Come and try the first module on 28 Feb – 1 Mar – there are sometimes discounted places available for those that cannot afford the full fee. Have a look at judyapps.co.uk for more information, or email judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk

Voice of Influence Workshop, 25-26 April

I ran this workshop just this week, and once again participants proved that we are far more competent and far more inspirational than we might imagine. I just love to witness it. The next workshop is on 25-26 April – book soon if you are interested: Judyapps.co.uk.

Daily voice/presentation tips and more on my FB Page

Fresh ideas every day. Have a quick glance here and scroll down for loads of handy tips, inspiration and humour. And if you like the page, please ‘LIKE’ it, and even better tell your friends – thanks!

Follow me on TWITTER too.

Get in touch with me if you are interested in 1-2-1 coaching

I have witnessed remarkable changes happen enough times in coaching to know that it is absolutely possible for you to accomplish extraordinary things, whatever your starting point. I’d be very pleased to hear from you, simply to talk through what you might be looking for and what you might expect. Email judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk or call me on 01306 886114.

My books on Kindle

I love the feel of a real book, but my books on voice and communication are selling on Amazon just as strongly in Kindle edition, so take your choice!

Voice of Influence: How to Get People to Love to Listen to You

Butterflies & Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak & Present wit Confidence

Voice & Speaking Skills For Dummies

 Spirit of Coaching: with Robert Holden, 14 April

How to Be Happy in Challenging Times. Another fabulous free event in London from the Spirit of Coaching for coaches and aspiring coaches: “An opportunity to explore ‘happiness’ from a coaching perspective – what we need to do to create and sustain a state of happiness, whatever the circumstances of our life.“ I’m going – see you there? More information here – click on the date 14 April to bring up the registration page.

Hope to see you this spring.

Go well,


Comments are closed.