How do people perceive me? What’s the big deal?
Have you ever thought about how people perceive you? I mean seriously thought about it? We all wonder what people think of us every now and then but normally we tend to wonder this through curiosity rather than for any constructive reason. In fact, I expect some of you will be thinking… why should I bother reading this because “I don’t care what people think of me”.
If I was talking about looks or appearance then you would be right – I would stop reading now. But this blog is not about how you look, it’s about how you communicate. It’s about understanding how people perceive you so that you can make small changes to your behaviour to make you look and sound confident.
If you can work out how others perceive you, you can understand how you come across to them. This matters. If you get it wrong, it could be the reason why some people see you as lacking in confidence. If you get it right, you can start to think about adapting your behaviour so that their perception of you is what you want it to be.
In short, knowing how you come across to other people puts you in control and this in turn will make you look and feel more confident.
If you know how you come across, you can take control of the situation
I will show you in three simple steps how to work out how others perceive you. This in turn will help you to….
Be influential when dealing with challenging people.
Come across with impact and be noticed at meetings.
Feel in control when you are out of your comfort zone.
But first, let’s clarify why it matters how others perceive you.
Most people accept that other peoples’ perceptions of them do matter. Not everyone though. Some believe that what other people think of them is of no consequence at all. From their point of view “confident people do their own thing”. They are right to some extent. However, these people are not being very clever. Some might even say they are being over-confident. That’s dangerous territory to be in.
These people tend to be those we would describe as ‘thick skinned’. They’re just not bothered what other people think of them. Sometimes they even pride themselves in having this trait; this supposed ‘strength of character’. It’s true that they’re lucky they don’t get affected emotionally by what other people think of them but be under no illusion, that’s where the benefit of being thick skinned stops.
Imagine believing that you come across as a very confident person. You speak clearly and have no problem sharing your thoughts. However, the reality may actually be that other people see you not as confident, but as ‘cocky’, ‘inconsiderate’, ‘insensitive’, or even ‘arrogant’. Imagine what the consequences are likely to be.
Quite simply, this failure to take account of others’ perceptions of you may well impact on the path of your life. You could fail at an interview. Receive a poor performance review. Not be accepted as part of the team. Give a poor presentation. All because your self-perception is different to the perception others have of you.
Not taking account of how others perceive you may have a serious impact at work or in your social life
So it really does matter what people think and how they perceive you. However, it should not be the be all and end all. The reality of life is that most people cannot help but be affected by other peoples’ impressions of them and therefore how people react to them. But I want to show you how this is a positive thing if considered constructively.
Follow these simple Steps to work out how others perceive you and then use this information to help you come across confidently
Step 1 – Revealing how you think you come across.
Whenever you are with others, you are communicating. It’s true that most people think ‘communication’ is merely about talking. It’s not though; talking is just one element of what it means to communicate. Try thinking more widely about the concept of communication. For example, have you ever considered that how you say something might be just as important as what you say?
Even when you’re not talking, you’re still communicating. Your physical presence alone communicates a message. For example, people will form a perception of you just by looking at your facial expression, the way you stand or even by the way you shake their hand.
Some people like to be the centre of attention and to talk, others prefer to watch from the side lines and to listen. Decisions such as these are determined both consciously and subconsciously through your natural communication style. This style is your own personal way of communicating, the instinctive way you come across when you don’t consciously think about it. It will suit certain situations but not others. That’s why it’s so important to get to the bottom of it.
So how do you think you come across? Are you loud, caring, serious, enthusiastic for example?
My simple questionnaire ‘How Do You Communicate‘ will give you a clear idea of your own instinctive communication style. It’s free to complete and considers four different types of style. Each of these has its own traits and typical communication behaviours.
It takes just a few minutes to complete the questionnaire and you’ll receive your scores straightaway. The questionnaire is about how you think you come across so it’s important to complete it honestly. Your scores should reflect how you feel about yourself.
Take a moment now to complete it and then continue to the next step.
Discover your natural communication style. Click here
Step 2 – Discovering if other people agree with you – Is the perception you have of yourself the same as how others perceive you?
Your questionnaire scores tell you how you think you communicate. Were there any surprises? Look out for more details about your scores in your inbox. You can also learn more about communication styles in my free book ‘How to Get People To Listen to You’.
But how can you be sure this is what other people think? They might not agree with you.
You’ve got much more chance of coming across confidently if you are correct about what people are thinking about you when you’re talking. The last thing you need is someone forming a negative impression of you – and you having no idea this is happening. Being confident is hard enough when you look and sound good, let alone when you don’t!
So how can you be sure peoples’ perception of you is what you assume it to be?
Perhaps you’ve never considered this. If so, you’re not unusual. It’s not something that tends to cross peoples’ minds. Most people just make the assumption they come across the way they think they do. Be wary of this. You are making a presumption. You could be wrong.
Never make assumptions about how you think others perceive you
The truth is that most people do wonder what people think of them every now and then; it’s just natural human behaviour. As I mentioned above, mostly it’s simply because we’re curious or perhaps lacking in self-confidence rather than for any constructive reason.
There’s nothing wrong with being curious. But curiosity alone doesn’t tend to lead to any meaningful conclusions you can use.
When I say ‘use’, I mean actually employ to help you to come across to people in the way you really want to be perceived. The difficulty is that, for some people, the way they want to come across can be very different to the way they actually come across.
So being curious is one thing but making changes to your behaviour having learnt from your curiosity is another. This really can make a huge difference, both at work and socially. For example, if you’re presenting a negative impression when you’re talking or doing something distracting that you’re not aware of, this could be the reason why some people see you as lacking in confidence. In reality, that means you’re probably not going to succeed at that interview, be listened to at meetings, engage people during a presentation…
Be aware… You could be communicating your lack of self-confidence without even knowing it
So how can you find out? How can you check how people actually perceive you?
You could ask them of course but you need to be sure they are giving you open and honest feedback. Getting objective feedback from people can be tricky if you are asking friends or family. On my face to face courses, you receive feedback from six people (including me). This works well because people haven’t met before and they can be honest with each other.
You can also use my Reality Check questionnaire (included as part of The 4 Step Confidence Plan) which is designed so people can give you feedback anonymously. You choose who to invite to complete the questionnaire, but you won’t know who said what about you – that way people can be completely open and honest. They can tell you the good things they see in you and also the things they think you should be aware of or that you could improve on.
You don’t get to see peoples’ completed questionnaires. Instead, the results of each questionnaire are collated automatically through our website and available for you to see once you’ve received five replies. The whole process is completely secure and confidential. The only person who’ll see your results is you.
The Reality Check questionnaire has multiple choice answers and will only take people a few minutes to complete online. The results tell you how people view you in terms of:
Your personal style and approach to life
How you cope with conflict
How you deal with stress
Your confidence levels
We recommend that you invite people who know you well enough to give you some balanced feedback. Try to choose as wide a variety of people as possible. Ideally you should invite at least eight people. The more the merrier. That way you’ll get a comprehensive and balanced overall impression of how people see you. When people start the questionnaire, it’s made clear in the instructions that they are completing it anonymously – this helps to ensure they record what they really think.
You should score yourself separately on a piece of paper so that you can compare your own results to how other people have scored you.
The Reality Check Questionnaire comes in Step 3 of my 4 Step Confidence Plan. Find out more here
Step 3 – Reconciliation – Controlling other peoples’ perceptions of you.
The results of the Reality Check Questionnaire will give you a clear idea of how people actually perceive you. Take some time to compare these scores with your scores and also your results from the ‘What’s My Communication Style’ Questionnaire.
To really use your scores from the questionnaires effectively, try opening your mind a touch. This should help to explain why different people react to you in different ways. You probably feel most comfortable with people who have a similar communication style to you. That’s because people who communicate like you behave in a way that you can relate to. They do the things you do and don’t distract you or frustrate you by coming across in a way you don’t like.
The problems arise with people who have a different style to you. You might see this as a personality clash. In reality, it’s a communication style clash. So it makes sense to adapt your behaviour so that their perception of you is what you want it to be. That’s not giving in, it’s actually being clever.
Ultimately, it’s best to match the other person’s style. You may want to come across as confident and assertive in some situations or perhaps considerate and empathetic in others. Stick to your guns though; you’re only changing your communication style, not your opinion or needs. So although you are changing the way you communicate your message, the content and meaning of the message stays the same.
Change the way you communicate the message, NOT the meaning of the message itself
You can learn how to put this into practice on my online confidence course or come on one of my one day confidence courses to talk about it and try it out.
The key point to remember here is that if you know how others perceive you, you are more likely to be able to control the situation. You will start to see people reacting to you in the way you want them to. It’s amazing how this can boost your confidence levels too.
So try to remember; have the confidence to ‘do your own thing’ but don’t disregard other people’s perceptions of you. Factor this into your thought processes and actions. Take account of peoples’ perceptions but don’t let this turn into paranoia. So “how am I perceived by others?” is certainly a question you should ask yourself regularly for constructive and positive reasons.
For regular free tips on confidence and self-esteem, sign up to receive my Confidence Tips once a week. This is a great way to stay focused on building your confidence in a structured way over a period of time.
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