Yesterday afternoon I met a friend for coffee. We had not seen each
other since May, so we enjoyed catching up for a while. At one point, I was
telling her about an upcoming activity with some high school students, and she
encouraged me to show a lot of confidence when interacting with kids that age.
Another time in the conversation, I mentioned the first year with MRIGlobal
flew by yet I feel so new, and she again urged me about confidence. After her
second mention of it, I began to wonder if I come across to her, or in general,
as if I don’t have confidence.
So, now I’m paranoid and lacking confidence!
The conversation prompted me to dig a little about perceptions. How do
our impressions of others impact our behaviors? How do our perceptions of
ourselves impact our performance? If anyone reading this has a perception
problem, what I learned and pondered might help you too.
The psychology gurus are pretty set on the definition of perception: it
is the process by which we translate our environment into our view of the
world. Of course, our view affects our behaviors and behaviors lead to success
or failure with work and people.
Take a look at the photo to the left. How old is the woman you see? The way you see
the woman will impact how you treat her, if she were a real person in front of
you. Or, perhaps you see something else entirely?
A colleague told me a story recently. The story was about selling shoes
in India. As the story goes, an Indian leader wanted to set up a shoe business
in a specific region, so he sent an ambassador there to do some recon work. The
elder ambassador spent little time in the region and told the leader that
selling shoes in that region would be a waste of time because the people don’t
even wear shoes.
In the meantime, an enterprising young man met the leader. The young
man was eager to prove himself worthy of a position with the leader, so he
offered to go to the same region to assess the shoe business potential. He
spent time in the region, interacted with the people, noted their interests and
needs. When he returned to the leader, he was excited about the potential shoe
business. There was great potential because the people don’t wear shoes! Turns out,
the young man was right and the shoe business prospered.
Perception affects behavior, and behavior affects success with work and
people. Watch out for three common perception problems to make sure you see
things as they are and act accordingly.
Self-fulfilling prophecy: Believing
something is true causes it to come true. The best example I can think of for
this is “parking karma.” I believe in such karma and it almost always works for
me. When people in the car doubt or make fun of it, it always works. Right when
a passenger laughs off my parking prayer (“Hail Mary full of grace, help me
find a parking space”), someone pulls out of the front spot. Another common
example is when searching for a lost item. It is better to say, “I will
remember to print the report” instead of “I hope I don’t forget to print the
I read a statistic a long time ago that said 70%-90% of what we say to
ourselves is negative. Pay attention to how you talk to, and about, yourself to
see if that number could be taken down a notch or two.
goes deeper than self-talk. Sometimes people procrastinate or do mediocre work
as a way to sabotage themselves. A technique that helps self-sabotagers is
Stop-Challenge-Focus. (SOURCE: Turn
Self-Sabotage Into Success By Geoffrey James on www.inc.com)
When you avoid taking an action that would help you reach your goals,
use the three steps:
1.STOP. Identify the belief that's causing you to
feel emotions that aren't helping you succeed.
2.CHALLENGE. Question the validity of that belief
and find reasons why it's not really true or not true in this case.
3.FOCUS. Create a specific inner dialog that
supports your goals and then take action immediately.
Fundamental attribution error:
This is when we give positive explanations for our results and negative ones
for others. For example, I got the “A” on the exam because I studied hard,
while Joey got the “A” because he was lucky. At work, this might relate to
positions, promotions, evaluations, or project assignments. A flawed sense of
oneself leads to career stagnation or failure. It is difficult for others to
give feedback when our vision of ourselves differs from how others view us, so
watch for it yourself.
One of the great philosophers of our day, Stephen Colbert summed this
issue up nicely, “It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion,
but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at
all. Perception is everything.”
Whether we are with friends, colleagues, or customers, perception is
everything. Remember, that includes your perception of others and of yourself,
not just their perception of you.