The Zen of Perception
Perception is reality. We find ourselves in an image driven world where opinions are formed instantaneously and people make judgments about one another based on very little information. You get to determine how you are going to manage that perception by consciously thinking about how you appear to others in everything you do. Perception is in the eye of the beholder and his or her interpretation. The second you enter another person’s view, even out of the corner of his or her eye, you are making an impression. This is what could be called the power glance. During that split second you are communicating a message and it must be a positive one. The way you walk, your posture, grooming and appearance all play a major role in the impression made by this glance. Dozens of nuggets of information about you are being processed and used to form an opinion of who you are and whether the person glancing at you wishes to make your acquaintance, finds you intriguing or has written you off. Once that opinion is formed, even in that split second of time, it can be difficult to change it. Consequently, you want to make an impeccable first impression constantly and consistently, because you may not get to chose the time and place.
Your image is based on the message you project. Perceived abilities, capabilities and influence are the untested basis for another person’s confidence in you possibly before they get to know you let alone understand your ability to perform. You also have to decide how you want to appear – friendly, interesting, outgoing, competent, savvy, efficient, dependable ………
We always have choices – do we want to stand out or blend into the background – state our opinion or keep silent – get to know people or simply extend the courteous greeting – capitalize on every situation and scenario to learn something new – show your abilities or hone your experiences and expertise. Each choice shapes the perception we leave with others. Perceptions set up expectations that you can handle any situation or scenario and know what to do and how to do it.
Perception can also be on purpose or accidental. Generally a perception is communicated when you are fully aware of what you are doing and how you are doing it and how you are coming across to others. There are other times you are being observed and judged without your knowledge. A Perception can be determined even when you are not present – over the phone, or via voice mail, letters, memos or reports you write – even through e-mails you send.
Elements of Perception Management include:
• Putting people at ease
• Knowing how to enhance your personal and professional impact and leverage
• Displaying impeccable behavior
• Asserting yourself
• Knowledge of the right way to act or react in any and every situation and/or encounter
• How you look, dress, talk, walk, sit, stand and eat
Perceptions are formed by:
• How you listen, share, voice opinions, give direction, communicate
• Level of enthusiasm, tolerance, interest
• How you interact with people and acknowledge others
• Always making eye contact and having a ready smile
Image Power – You are in control of how you are perceived, accepted and remembered. You get to make the decision regarding how you want to be perceived in each situation and every encounter. By thinking through the perception you wish to convey you develop a confidence in yourself and increase your level success. Developing an powerful and positive image requires forethought and discipline. It is your competitive advantage.
Image Tactics – Are the elements you use to impress others allowing them to remember you favorably. This includes displaying good manners and always showing respect for others. It can be as simple as making eye contact, giving everyone a smile and a friendly handshake. Being impeccable in appearance and grooming is also an image tactic. The best rule in the art of perception management is to treat other’s as you would want to be treated. You must also look at yourself from the other person’s point of view.
Image Credibility – The most important part of perception is to always be constant with the message you are sending. If you are sending mixed signals, you confuse the message and consequently everyone involved. A person can be impeccably dressed but if he or she is driving an old beat up car or has dirty fingernails; or bad eating habits, the message is conflicting and confusing. Image credibility requires that you maintain a positive and consistent public image. One that says you can “trust me”, “depend on me” and “you’d enjoy getting to know me”. Image credibility is understanding the message you are sending at all times. Some instant ways to build credibility are to:
• Be on time and timely with tasks, reports, etc. and follow through when required
• Return phone calls – always and timely
• Say thank you in person and in writing
Image Sabotage – One must always be aware of the little things that can so quickly and easily sabotage your credibility. Many times we fall into habits or patterns that do not necessarily reflect positively upon us. Being constantly alert to all our acquired gestures, mannerisms and habits is essential. Once some less than positive action or word or response has become a habit it takes a month to break that habit and replace it with a new one. Developing the discipline to be constantly monitoring ourselves for positive perception indicators and catching any negative perception makers is imperative.
There is a lot to the Art of Perception Management – It is not something you automatically know or can read in a book – it has to be learned, practiced and experimented with, to define and manage your personal perception. Never give anyone reason or evidence to doubt your intelligence, experience or credibility. Everything you do must radiate the impression that you are a consummate professional and prepared for anything and everything that might come your way.