The human mind can’t be explained in a few sentences. It’s vastly complex, and no two minds think exactly alike. The way we perceive information and stimuli varies not only on our surroundings but on our mental state, physical senses, and motivations. When you’re an entrepreneur or working in the corporate world, you can’t stay in your own little bubble and get ahead. Understanding ways of managing perception in business opens doors and gives you an edge up on your competition.
Let’s review the definition of perception: The process by which people translate sensory impressions into a coherent and unified view of the world around them. Though necessarily based on incomplete and unverified (or unreliable) information, perception is equated with reality for most practical purposes and guides human behavior in general. – BusinessDictionary.com
Managing perception involves understanding how your clients, investors, and employees perceive various aspects of your business and then finding ways to positively influence them in your favor.
First Impressions = Strong Perceptions, But You Can Still Recover From Goofs
We’ve all heard about the importance of nailing first impressions. Don’t be a slob or a stink bomb on your first interview, show up on time when meeting someone for the first time, speak confidently and look people in the eye when you introduce yourself, etc. You may roll your eyes, but these tips are super important because first impressions create strong perceptions. For example, even if your colleague has been raving about you to a new client, if you blow up your first meeting, that client isn’t going to be impressed regardless of what he/she heard about you from your colleague.
But we’ve all made big goofs with first impressions before. A lot of times this happens because we’re nervous and aren’t totally ourselves. We may trip over our own words, say things we don’t mean, poorly explain complex concepts, cut people off, or laugh hysterically at something that wasn’t supposed to be funny.
So how do you recover? First, you have to recognize what you messed up and why. Second, figure out what steps you can take to prevent repeat mistakes. Third, apologize immediately if your impression was really bad. Fourth, schedule a follow up call or meeting and openly address the issues that may have planted poor perceptions in the recipients’ minds. Owning up to your faults and showing initiative to make positive changes helps save and build lasting relationships and business partnerships.
Perception And Physicalities Are Just As Important As Words
Sometimes we’re so focused on what we’re saying in business meetings and networking events that we totally forget to think about our body language and how we should dress. Properly managing perception in business has to involve physicalities because the way we perceive people and things is greatly influenced by what we see and touch, not just by what we hear.
The easiest example is the handshake. If someone has a limp, clamy handshake, the receiver will immediately perceive the other party as nervous, vulnerable, and lacking confidence. Don’t put yourself in a position to be manipulated right from the get go. Dry your hands and give a solid firm grip – yes that includes you ladies out there. Ladies be confident! And guys, you don’t have to give a super soft handshake to women because their hands are “delicate.” I actually get offended and annoyed if someone gives me a limp handshake.
Another way body language affects perception in business is how close we stand to people, our posture, and our facial expressions. If you invade someone’s personal space, they’re going to feel uncomfortable and think you’ll slimy. If you constantly slouch, especially in meetings, people won’t perceive you as professional and will think you’re lazy. And if you have a bored, tired, or angry expression on your face, you’ll be perceived as disinterested, overworked, or disgruntled even if that isn’t really the case.
So, look at yourself in the mirror from time to time. Ask your colleagues and managers for their feedback on your body language and interaction in client meetings and networking events. You may be doing things that are hurting your image without even realizing it!
The Importance Of Branding And Managing Perception
Managing perception in business and branding go hand in hand. If you’re unfamiliar with branding, be sure to check out my article on what branding really means along with 20 Branding Tips For Your Business. When you’re running a business, ensuring that your consumers and clients have positive and strong branding associations with your products and services is essential.
Know your audience and make sure your branding strategies are inline with their needs and wants. Collect feedback, and read reviews on customer reactions to your business. Those raw emotions will clue you in to how they perceive your customer service, quality, pricing, and reliability. You might be surprised with what you find.
Shift Your Mental State For A Fresh Perspective
Has your perception of work become warped? Do you feel like you’re stuck in a rut or running on empty? I was feeling like a crazy workaholic lately, and needed some serious change. So I decided to make a small alteration in my mental state that fortunately had a big, positive impact on my overall well being. What I realized was that I was taking a lot of things too seriously. Once I took a step back and started reminding myself “what’s the worst that could happen,” and stopped putting the burden of everyone else’s responsibilities on myself, I felt a huge weight lifted off of me.
Our minds are powerful tools. They can sometimes work against us if we’re not careful. What your brain is perceiving may not be as serious, overwhelming, or difficult as you might think. So try shifting your mental state. Sometimes even just changing how you describe work can have a positive impact. For example, instead of grumbling, “Augh I have to go to work again and put out other people’s fires” try this approach “Today I’m going to analyze why things haven’t been going well and work with others to find positive and creative solutions.” See the difference?!
Managing Perception During A Crisis
Crisis control is something we hope we never have to deal with in business, but it’s inevitable. Things break, servers go down, orders don’t come in on time, etc. How you and your business react will have a large impact on the way your competitors and clients perceive the chain of events. Make sure you’re visible during these times. The last thing your consumers want is for you to pretend like nothing happened at all.
Other ways to manage perception in positive ways during a crisis are to remain patient, avoid emotional outbursts, announce the issue and what you’re doing to resolve it, don’t act too hastily which could make things worse, and never get defensive. People want to be kept informed when a crisis occurs. Don’t let them have to find out from someone else that a bad thing happened or they will perceive you as being deceptive, disorganized, misleading, or even fraudulent. Following up with an explanation of what happened and the solutions you’ve put in place to avoid recurrence will go a long way.
Untemplaters, are you managing perception in business situations? Have you ever thought about how your coworkers or clients perceive you? What are some things you’ve done to manage perception in a positive manner?