How to Change People’s Perception of You
Perception matters. Misperceptions, even unfair ones, can be damaging to a career or to healthy workplace connections. It is possible to change people’s perception of you, but only if you’re willing to do some work on understanding what formed the perception plus some work on modifying your behaviors to shape new perceptions.
As we explored in a previous post in the Why Wait to be Great series, perception serves as reality for most people. They don’t have to be technically right about you for their perceptions to stick. Right or wrong, perceptions are powerful. To be seen for your full potential, you may first need to address any perception problems that stand in your way.
What Caused Others to Have These Perceptions about You?
You may not be aware how certain behaviors, actions, words, facial expressions, habits, or interactions have influenced others’ perceptions about you.
Even more troubling, you might have no idea what you said or did to cause someone else to view you the way they do. That makes it extremely difficult to understand the perception, acknowledge and accept it, and then address it.
To develop stronger awareness and get ideas about what others may be responding to, consider taking advantage of these resources:
- The 12 Dimensions of Trust, a free presentation and self-assessment tool, available live on March 14, 2022 or on-demand after that time.
Most people don’t realize that there are 12 dimensions of trust. Instead, we think being honest and having integrity is all it takes for people to trust us. But that leaves 10 other dimensions… ways we may inadvertently causing others to mistrust us. Once you know what the 12 dimensions of trust are, you can avoid perceptions related to being untrustworthy.
- Overcoming Imposter Syndrome & Other Secret Struggles, another free BrightTALK, available live on April 11, 2022 or on-demand after that time.
If people sense that you lack confidence or exhibit self-doubt, their perceptions of you will reflect that doubt and lack of confidence. When you address and overcome these issues, you will show up more confidently and inspire others to be more confident in you, too.
- The Essentials of Personal Effectiveness is a free, self-paced, online course you can begin at any time. For 13 consecutive weeks, you’ll receive new content and assignments to make you feel and be more effective in the work you do.
You may also find that it’s helpful to use a 360-degree survey instrument that invites others to give you confidential feedback. Getting clarity on what others see is how to understand why they have the perceptions that they do.
The most likely culprit for you being misunderstood is that you’ve inadvertently acted in some way that did not accurately or fully convey your intentions.
The Importance of Behaviors in Shaping Perceptions
No one can see your intentions, know your innermost thoughts, or fully understand your emotions.
People make assessments about you based on just one thing: how you behave. Your outward behaviors are what they can see. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your actions are aligned with your values, beliefs, and intentions. It’s why “think before you act” is such an important reminder.
When people see a pattern of behaviors, that pattern becomes part of your reputation (good or bad!).
You’ve developed perceptions about people based on their actions, too. You can’t help it! If you know someone who is chronically late, forgetful, scattered, and unreliable, you’ve come to think of that person as "flaky” at best and may even think of them as downright untrustworthy. Likewise, if you know someone who is an excellent listener who shows empathy and interest in you, you’ve come to think of that person as caring, kind, or trustworthy.
In neither case would you perception of the individual change if they said “yeah, it may seem that way, but I’m actually (something else)…” You’ll believe your own experiences and feelings every time.
To create or change perceptions, you’ll have to diagnose which of your own behaviors shaped the perceptions people have AND which behaviors you can display to create a more desirable perception.
Strong self-awareness and emotional intelligence will help you in this sort of exercise. It may also be useful to work with a certified coach who can help you by asking questions to promote self-discovery.
The good news is that you don’t need a personality transplant or an advanced degree to simply change your behaviors. Deliberate focus, time to build new habits, and continued mindfulness about the impact your actions have on others will get you there.
It does take time to revise perceptions. People are more inclined to notice and register behaviors that fit their perception of you. That means your initial efforts to exhibit different behaviors won’t be noticed at first. And if they are, they’ll be dismissed as aberrations. Stick with it to change perceptions!
Manage Your Personal Brand to Change People’s Perception of You
Personal brand is defined as the widely-recognized perception or impression of an individual based on that person’s experiences, expertise, competencies, actions, achievements, and style within a community.
So what’s your personal brand? Are you known in your family as a “daddy’s girl” or a “mama’s boy”? At work, are you THE subject matter expert in regulatory affairs? Or, perhaps, in your office, you’re the person everyone else counts on to remember birthdays and organize potlucks and after-hours gatherings. These are all examples of personal brands.
Your personal brand may not be one of your own choosing. You may have developed a reputation based on past behaviors or based on your expertise. That reputation could box you in by limiting how people think about you.
It’s best to choose what you’d like your personal brand to be. To build your own personal brand, determine what you'd like others to say and think about you. Be brutally realistic so your personal brand can reflect who you really are, not what you’d like to fool others into thinking of you (because that’s just not sustainable).
Start by asking yourself questions like these:
- What matters most to me?
- What do I want to be remembered for?
- What qualities do I want others to see in me?
- What expertise or achievements do I want attached to my name?
- What do others associate with me? Is that okay?
As you think through the personal brand that’s right for you, keep it simple and make sure it’s authentic. Being true to yourself makes you credible and easier to understand.
Once you’ve worked it out, consider what you’re already doing to deserve your desired brand. Consider, too, what behaviors (past or present) may interfere with people seeing you this way. Work to align your behaviors with the brand you’d like to develop.
For the long-term, be careful in choosing the behaviors you display and the choices you make. Let your brand guide you. If something is off brand, your early awareness of that will prevent you from making mistakes that will take you off course.