Coach’s Challenge for 1-26-14 “Managing Perceptions”
Good day, team.
This week’s challenge is about managing people’s perceptions. The following blog post by Robert Curtiss, actor and psychotherapist, is from www.backstage.com. It got me thinking about how people perceive one another.
“How What You Do Affects How You’re Perceived
“Behavior is a mirror in which everyone shows his own image.” — Chinese fortune cookie
“I recently read the saying above on the ‘fortune’ in my fortune cookie, and it reminded me of other similar sayings, such as ‘Actions speak louder than words’ and ‘You are what you do.’ All of these sayings boil down to the same simple truth: We show the world what kind of people we are by what we do. Literally. How we treat others, how we look, how we manage our time are some ways, to list a few. Our behavior gives powerful nonverbal messages to others that tell them what to think about us. After all, they may say, ‘Never judge a book by its cover,’ but we all make assessments and judgments based on the available evidence before us. Knowing this can help us shape how others perceive us.
“Our attire and our personal hygiene send strong messages. People may not consciously note that you look clean and neat, but they definitely notice when you are sloppy or otherwise not well-groomed.
“How we manage our time sends a powerful message too. When we are on time, we are showing others that we are ready and eager for our appointment. Whereas when we are late, we may give the impression that we do not value other people’s time, and we are not responsible. This may not be true, but it leaves a lasting impression.
“When we are kind to others and offer them care and concern, our actions reflect kindly upon ourselves, and when we speak about others behind their backs, it says to others that we probably talk about them behind their backs as well.
“How do you perceive yourself, and how do you want to be perceived by the world? Think about that. Think of ways to behave that promote that perception in yourself and in others.”
This subject comes up frequently in my coaching sessions. People often feel judged unfairly by their co-workers. They hear comments that they’re convinced are off base, or they know that others are forming opinions about them that aren’t true. For example, one of my clients was told by his boss recently that he had to let one of his team members go because of poor performance. My client was aware that his team member needed to improve and was working with him to do this. But too much time had gone by, and the manager decided it was time for that person to leave the company.
When it came time to terminate the team member, my client told him why he needed to leave. The team member took the news professionally and gracefully left the company. But the rest of the team was unhappy that their teammate was asked to leave. They were incredibly angry with my client for terminating him, assumed the termination was his sole decision and accused him of unfairly treating their teammate.
As my client said to me, “I could have easily told everyone that my boss made me do this, but it’s my responsibility to manage this team effectively, and it didn’t seem right to hand the blame off to someone else. However, now I have a much bigger problem. The team doesn’t trust me, and I’m being perceived as a tyrant rather than a fair boss.”
This is a classic case of misperception. What people see is a reflection of their understanding. When we only see something from a limited viewpoint, we draw conclusions that are not true. My client will have to be consistent in treating his team members fairly to increase their understanding of who he is and how he works if he wants to change their current perceptions of him.
Ironically, it’s not my client who suffers the most in this scenario. He’s really not a tyrant, and so whatever perceptions others have of him in this vein, he’s not bound by. It’s the team members who have created these negative perceptions that suffer the most in their inability to see who he really is.
As William Blake, the great poet and engraver wrote, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”
This week, ask yourself if your perceptions of others are accurate. Are you basing your opinions on real facts and direct observations of each person’s actions? Maybe, like in the case of my client, someone is not really responsible for a decision but is actually acting on someone else’s instructions and doing the best they can. Are you only focusing on someone’s weaknesses and not their strengths? Or are you so opinionated about something that you can’t see someone else’s point of view? Does this make you right and the other person wrong? Is a situation actually someone else’s fault or are there many more things to consider?
Try opening up your doors of perception. You’ll see that many possibilities exist beyond the ones that come immediately to mind. If you can remember what it’s like to be judged unfairly, you may be able to look at others with a more open mind. You may just find that when you take another look at the person, things look differently.
“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” — Wayne Dyer
Have a good week,
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