Illusion of transparency

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2 min read

There is a gap between what we experience and what others think we are experiencing. This is the illusion of transparency. When we assume that others understand what we are feeling or thinking, we overestimate how we convey our emotions and thoughts.

We feel that we are the centre of attention in our own experiences. In reality, most people are too absorbed in their own experiences to pick up the signs that you are painfully aware of exhibiting.

Were you awfully nervous when you gave that speech? No one noticed because they were daydreaming, busy trying to process the information you’re conveying, or simply wondering if anyone noticed that they are having a bad hair day. In short, people are too caught up in their own little bubbles to be aware of the subtle cues.

Once you understand the illusion of transparency, you can start to take steps to help you overcome this.

Assume that others don’t know what you are thinking or feeling. If you want them to understand what you are feeling or thinking, tell them.

Vice versa, ask someone how they feel if you want to understand what they are experiencing. Their answer might confirm your suspicions. Or they might just prove the illusion of transparency to you.

Don’t be annoyed or upset when others don’t catch on to your cues. If you want them to know how you feel, tell them directly. This is the basis of clear communication. It’s through communicating that we avoid arguments and misunderstandings.

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.”

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Understanding the illusion of transparency is very liberating. Almost no one cares about things that you are overly conscious of. Free yourself from the invisible shackles cast by your own mind.

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