Managing Perceptions

How many times have you heard the quote, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? I want to take this quote a step further and say that it’s as equally as important what you’re known for by the people that influence your decisions. For example, if your notariety stems from a negative situation from the past, then those memories of you overshadow the actual awareness of who you really have become.

We all have had things to occur in our past that have shaped perceptions in others about what kind of person we are.  The reality, however,  is that we grow and evolve into different versions of ourselves.  The person we were at the time the stigmas were created has changed, yet people tend to hold onto the last memory that was created.  

In order to move past negative stigmas that linger from the past, we must invest some time into managing those perceptions that others have stored about us.  But the question is “how exactly do we do that?”.  I’m glad you asked!  I will share an example that my son and I discussed several months ago.  At the time, he was discouraged by the fact that he could not land a job but he was very willing to work in order to support his goals.  Having had experience with hiring new employees, I could easily see some of the things that were holding him back.

First, he is extremely handsome which he couldn’t avoid if he wanted to because of my dna in his blood but his choice of haircuts mimicked the young rappers of today’s youth.  It was extremely long and out of control.  As a father, I was hesitant to impose my will upon him but waited for him to ask me what he was doing wrong when seeking employment.  One day, after he had gotten rejected for another job, he finally asked me what he was doing wrong.  I simply told him that “perception is reality son”.  You are presenting to the potential employers, a rapper like image and you are far from that.  I instructed him to properly groom himself and present himself in a manner that aligns him with the job he was applying for.  He replied, “why do I have to change who I am in order to get the job”?  My response was that you are not changing who you are, your simply managing perceptions.  If you are percieveved as clean cut and well-groomed, that projects a sense of value that you place in yourself.    And if you value yourself, then others will follow suit.

If you went to see a doctor and the doctor walked in unshaven with unmanaged hair and clothes that hang off, would you take the doctor seriously?  You must dress for the part that you are trying to secure.  Just imagine the doctor with a lot of flashy gold chains and a grill in his mouth and every time he spoke to you, there was so much slang that you couldn’t extract the message.  You must dress for success!  Vice versa, if you’re trying to be a rapper, wearing Dockers and Sperry’s will not garner you a lot of street credibility.   Know your role and align yourself accordingly.

After a week of deliberation, my son sent me a text message that said “I did it” and attached a picture of him with his new haircut.  That moment made me as proud as when he said daddy for the first time because he actually listened to my advice and applied it.  His energy was different and I could tell that he liked the person that he saw in the mirror.  Shortly thereafter, he called me to tell me that he had landed a job and he told me how well his interview went.  I shared with him that the change he made was not for anyone else, but instead, it was for himself.  He owed himself the opportunity to evolve into a better version and by making the choice to do so, he was able to manage the perceptions that were made about him.  

In another instance, I have a co-worker that was viewed as not being a team player in the workplace.  He stated that others think that he only cares about himself and is not interested in contributing to the teams success.  My question to him was “why do they think that?”  He said that when asked recently to help with an issue dealing with another team, he replied that he had his own team issues to worry about and everyone needs to pull their own weight.  I told my friend that it is perfectly normal to feel that way, however, it’s more than ok to think it but not verbalize your opinions.  Sometimes, what you don’t say is as powerful as what you choose to say because once it’s put into the atmosphere, you no longer control the tone that it is repeated in.  It can literally mutate in delivery and taken out of context which can make you appear aggressive and not willing to support the greater good of the team.   You have to remind yourself that a wise man once said nothing at all and that less can be more.  In moments of frustration and tension, don’t allow your emotions to take control of your mouth but instead, take control of your mouth until you have a firm grip on your emotions.  

In closing, remember that it only takes a second to make an impression but it could take years to change it.  Make it a practice to think before you speak.  Remember that you can control your emotions but only if you choose to do so.  With maturity and experience, the choice does become easier yet there still will be moments that provoke your tongue to lash out.  You must always remain vigilant to safeguard the way you react to the stimuli that is created from your environment.  If you find that your environment creates the stimuli more prevalent than it does for others, maybe your environment (social circle) needs to be altered as well.   

Be blessed,

Patrick Hurd