Banks, Ski Masks

  • Published
  • By Col. "Tip" Stinnette
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Perceptions are reality for the perceiver. I came across the following story the other day and it really underscores the point about perceptions. Salome was a 35-year-old man who lived with his mother in North Carolina. One day Salome drove to the bank to make a withdrawal from his account. It was the middle of winter, it was particularly cold out and he was driving an old beat up car without windows.

So Salome donned his ski mask for the drive. Salome pulled up to the drive-through and gave the teller his withdrawal form. The teller panicked, thinking he was a thief, and gave him $10,000. Salome had no clue what had happened and just drove off.

The bank called the police and they chased him all the way into the Blue Ridge Mountains where a scared Salome ended up driving off a cliff. His mother told police her son always wears a ski mask when it's cold outside.

Let's take a closer look at this one for a brief minute. On one hand, it was cold outside and on the other hand, ski masks and banks are generally a bad combination. Salome wore a ski mask without thinking about the potential branches and sequels involved with driving up to a teller and making a withdrawal.

The teller saw the ski mask and perceived the worst. Neither Salome nor the teller sought to clarify the situation. Salome drove off a cliff. Two people saw the same exchange with two starkly different perceptions.

Now multiply two people by 2,500 people and throw in two different languages and cultures ... sound like anywhere you've been?

Communication comes in many forms and is shaped by perception. Effective communication is hard and the illusion of ineffective communication is that it has been received as it was intended. Effective communication not only transmits, but ensures the reception of the intended message. Effective communication often requires shaping the message from the perspective of the receiver.

Back to Salome and the teller ... the teller could have asked Salome why he was wearing a ski mask and Salome could have told the teller that it was really cold outside. Perceptions are reality for the perceiver and absent a clarifying exchange, perceptions will spread and become a reality for a community (a.k.a. the police response).

At the end of the day, don't go to the cashiers cage with a ski mask on. Work on clarifying the exchanges in order to ensure freedom's future.