Tag: judgement

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,


© Copyright 2014 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

1/20/13 “Judging a Book By It’s Cover”

Good day, team.

Right before the end of last year, I wrote a challenge titled “The Importance of Emotional Connection.” The piece focused on my experience with the surgeon and other healthcare providers when I had nose surgery right before this past Thanksgiving. This week’s challenge offers a follow-up to that piece as well as an important lesson.

You may recall that my doctor’s lack of attempt to emotionally connect with me made my surgery doubly difficult. And it wasn’t just his inability but also the lack of effort made by the nurses and other health professionals to make any sincere connection with me. When we work with others in any capacity, I think it’s important to make an effort to emotionally connect, even if it’s only to make eye contact or to ask how they’re doing. Without this connection, it’s difficult to establish trust, and without trust, it’s difficult for people to work together. In my view, it’s what my doctor needed to do to be really successful. If he continued to leave the heart out of his interactions with his patients, he wouldn’t become the compassionate healer that most of us desire in our health professionals.

Here’s how I put it in the challenge:

“For Dr. Han to really be successful, he will need to spend some time working on his emotional intelligence. He will need to learn how to connect with his patients so that he has a better understanding of how they are feeling. I don’t recommend that his empathy get in the way of his expertise but taking time to actually see the person he is treating will help him be a better doctor, a more compassionate healer and a more intuitive human being.”

Last week, I went back to see my doctor for my eight-week, follow-up appointment. As I sat in the waiting room, I prepared myself for the same experience I ‘d had at my previous visits to see him. I knew what would happen: I would walk into the examining room and wait for the doctor to come in. He would enter the room, probably shake my hand, not look me in the eye, shine a light up my nose, make some comments about my recovery, give me advice about what to do next and be gone. “It will be exactly the same,” I thought, “and probably even worse since I’m doing fine and he’s pretty much done with me. No emotional connection whatsoever. Oh well. His loss. If he doesn’t care enough to really be attentive to me or to authentically inquire about how I’m doing, too bad for him.” As I walked to the examining room, I thought, “This time I’m ready for his cold, dispassionate approach.”

And then he walked into the room.

“Hi Kathleen,” he said with a huge smile on his face. He looked me right in the eyes, walked over to me and held out his hand. As he shook my hand, his other hand reached over and patted me on the shoulder, “How are you doing? I mean, you look great … still a little swollen, but that nose is healing really well. What do you think?” Frankly, I almost fell off the stool. Was this the same guy? The cold, uncaring surgeon I had experienced was suddenly transformed into a happy, caring, approachable guy who seemed sincerely interested in what my experience had been. How could this be? I had him pegged, and now he was being just the opposite of what I had defined him to be.

Our appointment was as different this time as you could ever imagine. He asked me great questions. He listened to me and never took his eyes away from mine when I spoke. He seemed genuinely interested in how I was doing. At the end of our appointment, I believed him when he said, “I’m so glad you’re breathing better, and this is working for you. I don’t feel successful unless my patients are really happy with their results.”

As I walked out of the doctor’s office that day, I realized I had just learned a great lesson. If we’re so quick to define people by our first experiences with them, we run the risk of not noticing that they are more than that. If we put them in a box and label it “unable to emotionally connect and therefore, deficient,” as I did with my doctor, we might just leave them in that box. Then if they exhibit a different kind of behavior that’s outside of that box, we don’t see it.

By putting my doctor in a box and labeling him, I end up losing the most. My doctor is still what he is. If I only see him the way I initially defined him, then I’m the one who’s actually trapped in a box — a box labeled, “narrow-minded.” If I can’t see that he’s actually more than what my first impressions revealed, then I miss out and my narrow opinions stay intact.

This week, notice the thoughts and feelings you have about others. Are you convinced that they’re a particular way because that’s been your only experience of them? Do you believe that’s the only way they’ll ever be? Are you unable to see that most people have lots of different behaviors and states of mind and heart, depending on their day, their stress level, their own experiences? What would you need to do to be able to look at someone anew?

The irony of the situation with my surgeon was not lost on me. By being so quick to define my doctor as lacking in emotional intelligence, I lacked the ability to see him differently and ran the risk of shutting down my own emotional intelligence in the process.

This week, try seeing your co-workers, friends and family members with an open mind and heart. Try not to keep them in small boxes with big labels convincing you that your opinions and observations are correct. Think about how frustrating it is when you’ve worked hard to change some of your own behaviors and others don’t recognize those changes. How does it make you feel when you know someone judges and then labels you as being only one way when you know you’re capable of being many ways, depending on the situation?

Fortunately, my doctor shocked me with his friendly, warm and emotionally connected behavior last week. That shock woke me up and helped me to respond to him in the moment, rather than only seeing him as I saw him before. As my mother used to say, “Never judge a book by its cover.” I used to think she told me that because it would be unfair to the person I was judging. Now, I know that the person who really loses in that situation is me. By judging the book by its cover, you never open the book to read it — and that’s where the real story begins.

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.