Managing Perceptions

By Sean Stevenson – Latest Revision May 3rd, 2021

Why is Perception Management Important?

Managing perceptions is a key factor toward influencing the world around us.  By sharing a personal vision and translating it for others to understand, we can better leverage a collective effort.

When working with others, it is often a vital imperative to manage the way they perceive us.  This may sound deceptive or dishonest to some extent.  In reality, it allows us to better solve problems as we navigate complex personalities and relationships.

If you are a supervisor or a manager, you may already be managing perceptions without realizing it.  This skill is not difficult per se, though it does take practice to fully master.  It can lead to better communication, more effective interpersonal relationships, and heightened leadership.

The Crux of Managing Perceptions

Whether you are a business owner or an employee, managing perceptions can prove a powerful technique. 

Corporations today spend billions managing perceptions around their organization, their people, their products, and their services.  The purpose of this is to create a context for others to understand their mission.  This allows an organization to operate seamlessly within a wider society. 

Since people will have already be familiar with their products or services -in theory- they won’t hesitate to engage with their business structure.

In this way, managing perceptions is also a way of managing the behaviour of others.  If you are doing it well, you will have already laid the foundation for how others will behave toward you.  This gives greater awareness and agency when dealing with the public or other businesses.

Managing Perceptions in the Workplace

In terms of a career, managing perceptions can be of vast importance.  The very same techniques that can help a business to thrive are what will allow you to influence those around you.

Much of being a successful careerist in today’s world revolves around working well with others.  In short, social skills are particularly important.  An individual seeking to climb the corporate ladder must be willing to manage both their own internal awareness and their behaviour.

Thus, the rise or fall of your career will depend not only on your work ethic, but on how people perceive you.  It takes a great deal of proactivity to gauge the reactions of others and effectively navigate an organization’s social structure.

Despite this, having the capability to manage perceptions and meet (or exceed) expectations will invariably give you an edge over your competition.  This means your future will be decided by you and your meticulous actions alone.  Since the perception of you will already be positive, you need only prove yourself to be a capable worker or manager to ultimately succeed.

Well-managed perceptions coupled with excellent work habits will open the door to a better work experience, and even potential promotions.

The Challenges of Managing Perceptions

Many of us find it especially difficult to manage the perceptions of others.  After all, everyone is their own person, and each of us represents a unique personality with unique social tastes. 

The first time we meet a person is said to dictate the entire course of a relationship. 

Doubtless, this gives rise to the saying that “a first impression is everything.”  This is part of the science behind managing perceptions, and a great illustration of what makes it so important in life.  Failing to make a good first impression can create mistrust or dislike, often with little reason as to why.  Reversing this trend can be extremely difficult, or nigh impossible to achieve.

To avoid social debacles and keep your perceived positivity, strive to maintain a constant awareness of your social surroundings.  This can take a great deal of patience, time, and energy. 

Remain vigilant and aware of your own behavior in the workplace (and elsewhere!) also. 

The rewards of managing perceptions are well-worth the effort.  You will be making your life much easier. 

As you establish yourself in your newfound employment, or even a long-term career, pay attention to the quips of others.  These are your best clues as to how successful you are at managing perceptions in your social-sphere.

How To Manage Perceptions (Process)

The key to managing the perceptions of others begins with observing them.  This can sound awkward, strange, or even indecent.  In reality, it isn’t.  All you’re really doing is going about your own business, while at the same time paying nonchalant attention to the behavior of others. 

When learning about others, try to:

  • Understand who their friends are.
  • What their needs are.
  • What they like and dislike.
  • Their ambitions.
  • How you can relate to them.

By performing this private “survey” of others, you can set yourself up for success in managing the expectations of others.  Think of this as a way to “scout” the unknown before you make your move to improve your circumstances.

By understanding an individual’s social status, thought process, and how you can relate to them, you will be able to approach them effectively as a colleague.  Try to write down several ideas beforehand about how you can best “bridge” the gap between you.  Be sure to include positive messaging, and even potential compliments to help the conversation along.

Remember, your goal isn’t to be awkward or dishonest.  You want to be as open and natural as possible.  The preparation is useful to help tip the odds in your favour for a successful outcome.

Moreover, once you have the individual conversing with you, be sure to ask questions about what they do!  People love demonstrating their knowledge or skills to others.  If possible, try to ask about your work environment or the people in it.  This will help you gain insights about the current climate around you.

Should you find a subject being broached is making your uncomfortable, or you don’t wish to share any details on the subject, simply declare that you aren’t sure how to respond.  In this instance, people will often give you an “out” that will serve as a humorous or easy way to change the subject.

If you have any inclination or tendency to lie – don’t!  Lying or putting up a façade is impossible to maintain.  You should strive to be more honest wherever possible.

It is far better to fail when approaching others socially than it is to outright lie to their face.  Not only from a moral standpoint, but also because it could cost you later!

Does Managing Perceptions Really Matter?

Likely, many of us will wonder as to how important managing the perceptions of others really is.  You may be an individual concerned only with your work and see little need to impress others as you go about your business.

Unfortunately, keeping to yourself too much can make you a target.  Whether you wish to move up the corporate ladder or not, others will take notice of you.  The important thing to remember is that you have it in your power to decide whether this attention is positive or negative.

By being proactive, you can avoid the risk of anyone harbouring a grudge towards you.  Since people are often quick to make assumptions, you can change their attitudes by offering them a polite narrative.  Engaging with them after all, will always be far more effective than trying to ignore them!

Even if they choose to ignore you instead, they will have at least gained some insight as to who you are.  Ironically, this effect always lingers with people, as we are social -and curious- by nature. 

Any failure to manage perceptions or at least prove outgoing, can be problematic to the long-term prosperity of a career.  Should you find yourself isolated, it is likely you will have to make yourself indispensable in some manner to protect your interests.

This should be reflected upon and considered carefully!

How To Gauge How You Are Perceived

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, many of us fail to pause and reflect in a meaningful way.  Our fast-paced society tends to leave us with a lack of personal self-awareness. 

To effectively manage perceptions in others, we must first understand how others tend to view us.  To this end, it is worth your time to:

  • Ask for feedback from others as to what they think of you.  Use friends and family as a reference point.    
  • Regardless of how your friends and family present the information, try to ask for the reasoning behind their statements.  Carefully garner what information you can and categorize it if you have the time.
  • Try to ponder your own habits and tendencies.  You know yourself better than anyone else, so it can be a fruitful exercise to patiently contemplate your own nature.
  • Using personality profile tests or psychometrics can help you understand your own actions, perception, and beliefs.  These tests tend to be objective and based on commonly held metrics that can be compared.  They can be used by anyone at any time, and there are many free options available today.
  • Write down a list of different experiences and personality traits you have.  Compare these experiences to who you believe you are.  Draw comparisons and try to understand what makes you unique as an individual.

Once you have compiled enough information, try to take an honest look at what you have discovered.  It is important to understand that much of what we learn about ourselves can be a shocking revelation.  You may be entirely different from who you were in your youth, or you may have changed suddenly without any warning.

It takes personal tenacity to recognize these personal changes.  Who you are today is the sum of your experience.  This includes the good and the bad, which we all must accept.

With all this in mind, try to summarize who you are in a sentence.  Focus on the key examples, descriptions, behavioural patterns, and contrasts, that were most common among those you surveyed.  This will give you the biggest clues as to how others immediately perceive you.

Create A Perception Management Strategy!

Understanding how others view you can grant a deeper correlation into how your behaviour impacts others.  Since perception is always subjective, we have to explore it, even as we try to understand the motivations and ideas of others. 

This can greatly improve your ability to navigate both socially, professionally, or even educationally!

Creating a perception management strategy first requires that you understand your own objectives.  Focus on what it is you hope to gain from all of this:

Is this for a career? –  A perception management strategy for a career must focus on opportunity.  If there are ways you can improve your standing with your colleagues or superiors, then pursue them.  Should there be others that you wish to impress, then be open with them and find out how to proceed.  By pursuing multiple opportunities, you will create open doors that you can choose from, and eventually pass through.  The goal is to nurture the prospects of your career, even as you provide a sterling work ethic.  Naturally, none of this comes easy.  It takes a sustained effort over time to achieve!

Is this for your personal life? –  Perception management in our personal lives can help us gain the support structure we need socially.  Many of us would love to be more outgoing or change something about ourselves.  The problem is that we often don’t know how.  We lack the support structure to pursue our objectives as creatures of habit.  To gain a better foothold in your personal life, try finding people you hold dear that offer you support.  These can be friends, family, and even professionals that want to see you succeed.  Be open about what changes you are trying to pursue and ask openly for their assistance.

Is this for your education? –  Education can take many forms.  Some of us pursue knowledge for knowledge’s sake.  Others wish to use that knowledge to achieve their missions in life.  Using perception management can help you find the mentor you need to succeed.  A great mentor will always offer honest and practical advice.  They tend to see the potential in us, even when we ourselves may be feeling down or inadequate.  Try approaching guidance councilors, teachers, and education officials.  Ask them if they know of anyone who offers educational mentorship.  Chances are, they can most likely point you in the right direction.

Evaluating Perception Management

Changing our behaviour and awareness is not an easy process.  It can take months or years of sustained effort before we really begin to see results.

The changes you bring about in yourself are a success that you need to recognize, no matter how small it may appear at first.  This helps keep you motivated over time to continue on the path to self-improvement.

Perception management is a practiced ability.  Nobody is innately born with such a gift.  It takes a great deal of raw determination to fully develop this faculty.  Even then, it takes a great many more years to fully master it.

Managing Perceptions

By remaining consciously aware of our own activities, we can positively impact others.  Targeting our audience and communicating effectively with them becomes second nature over time. 

Always try to encourage feedback at every step of your journey.  When stressed, focus on the positive, and always maintain a quiet determination to succeed.

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