6 How Are You Perceived? By: William I. Brazley Jr., Director of Human Resources There is a very familiar phrase, coined by Lee Atwater, which is “Perception is reality.” Our view, or perception of things, or people, is the way we be- lieve those things, or people, to be. A more accurate phrase might be that our perceptions are our reality. We act or interact according to our perceptions. A good example of this is the proverbial glass of water. Is the glass half full, or is it half empty? Conventional thinking is that your outlook on life has a direct correlation with how you perceive the glass of water. If you change your perception, you change how you view people and/or situations. If you change how you view people and/or situations, you change how you act and/or inter- act with those people and situations. Therefore, you can go full circle and influence how others perceive you. Do you know how you are perceived amongst your friends, coworkers or supervisors? Are you perceived in the way you would like to be perceived? Why or why not? Success in anything that you try to accomplish will depend on positive perceptions. If you consid- er yourself to be a talented singer but everyone walks out of the room every time you start to sing, how are you being perceived? Whose perception is accurate? The good news is that per- ceptions can be changed but it takes work and it doesn’t happen overnight. Now the question is: how do you be- come the person that you want others to see? To change your perception, you must first be honest with yourself. You must be able and willing to iden- tify your strengths and weaknesses to change the undesirable traits that others see in you. Do you know how your behavior affects others? This is im- portant because you must know which behavior(s) that you exhibit irritates others and turns them off. If you don’t know this, how can you change that behavior? To improve how you are perceived by others you must ask for outside feedback. You should ask people that you trust to give you an honest answer of how you are perceived. You must convince them that you want them to be honest, though it may be painful. However, you must take note of what they aren’t saying (in case they hold back) as well as what they are saying. Once you get that feedback you must listen with an open mind. Don’t filter out and dismiss the things they said that you disagree with, especially if you are hearing it multiple times. How do you perceive yourself? Does it align with the way others perceive you? To change your perception of yourself, you must first identify how you see yourself. How you see yourself will affect the way you behave, but it can work in reverse. Sometimes our behavior is based on our perception of ourselves, such as the person who thought he could sing and started sing- ing. Other times we reach conclusions about who we are based on our behav- ior, such as the person who entered the amateur wine-tasting contest believing he is a wine connoisseur. Sometimes our behavior is based on our percep- tion and other times our perception is based on our behavior. Of course, everyone wants to be well thought of, but being well thought of is not the primary goal of changing the way people perceive you. The main goal is to be the person you really want to be. To do this you must challenge yourself. How can the singer who every- one walked out on be the singer that he wants to be? Remember, changing the way you are perceived will take work and it won’t happen overnight. That singer will have to practice, practice, practice. Sometimes your problems are not the situations you find yourself in, they are your perception of those situations. Sources Perception is Reality: 8 Steps for Changing How Others See You; by Joel Garfinkle Influence How Others Perceive You at Work; by Joel Garfinkle How to Change Your Self-Perception to Leverage Your Hidden Strengths; by Eric Ravenscraft