Their Perception is on You, Not Them

Guess who the kids are more afraid of...

My son’s dad is 6’4” tall and somewhere around 200 pounds – I’m a smidge above 5’ and maybe 100 pounds soaking wet so when I found out I was pregnant there were two things that immediately came to mind: “If it is a boy please take after your dad and don’t have colic.”  When he was born I knew my son would take after his dad and today at 19 my son is 6’1’ and about 190 something – whew.

Growing up I knew it would not take long for my son to surpass me in height, I was hoping to at least make it through elementary school.  We were the house where all his friends could come and hang out, eat and have a safe place to vent or ask questions.  All his friends were sports kids – football, baseball, wrestling, rugby – you name it these boys played it and they were all going to be big and eat a lot.  I knew I had to get in control of the situation quickly as I was going to have a lot of adopted second sons who towered over me.

So I did, I learned how to scare the crap out of them.  I knew I was successful when one day a gaggle of them were sitting around my table waiting for their favorite salsa scrambled eggs and they said, “You know Momma McDonald, you would think that we should be afraid of Jake’s dad – but you’re really the scary one.  We’re all kinda afraid of you.”  I put extra cheese in their eggs that morning with a smile.

I managed my perception because having a gaggle of teenage boys in your home is a frightening thought – giving them the opportunity to overrun it was terrifying.  I didn’t manage this perception by telling them to be afraid of me (they would have laughed) it was by my actions.  The “mom” look, the occasional smack on the back of the head, the voiced expectation of respect and controlled behavior – I set the tone.  And by the way, I wasn’t that scary as they are now all young men they know my door is always open and still frequently come by to say hi and hang out on the deck.

I thought about that conversation the other day when I was in a group meeting and we were talking about perception.  It was stated by a couple of people in the group that others need to realize that their perception is wrong and take actions to view it differently.  My tongue was bleeding I was biting it so hard.

You cannot tell someone that their perception is wrong and they need to change it, all I could think of is – seriously?  That would be like having a boss that you think is a total jackass come up and tell you that they are really a nice person and you need to change your thinking about them.  What would your reaction be?  As a whole people are not going to believe what you tell them – they will believe what you show them.  Big difference.  Big, big, big.  Huge.  Gigantic. Seriously.

Perception is something you create and as such it is your responsibility.  By trying to put it off on someone else you are being a big weenie.  Even if it is a poor perception and completely unintentional it is still your responsibility.

When I worked in corporate as a manager I tried to keep my team apprised of any technology or procedural changes as soon as possible so it made their life easier.  I once wrote a memo that had one little sarcastic comment, which I knew my team would appreciate (and they did) but management did not.  Oopsie.  It was brought to my attention that the one little comment could be perceived as negative toward the organization.  Oh crap.  That was not my intention but it was the result.  Crap.  So I had to be mindful of any future information I passed along that it could not be perceived in the same manner.  It never became an issue again nor were any future communications perceived as unsupportive.

Sure I wanted to tell management to get the stick out of their butt; however, it was not on them, it was on me – I was the one that said it so it was all on me.  I got my hand smacked, took responsibility and moved on.

If you are in a working situation where you are being perceived as uncooperative, unmanageable, or uncommitted (I don’t know if that is really the best word to use but I was on an ‘un” roll) then it isn’t up to your co-workers and managers to change their mind – it is on you to change your behavior to change their perception.

Take a look at your behavior, how you respond to others not only in words but in body language.  No more eye rolling or sighing when someone talks to you, no more “if I have to” type responses and no more crossing of your arms across your chest when someone tries to talk to you.  Taking ownership of your own behavior is the only way to change perception.  You created it and only you have the power to change it.

Realize that it takes a split second to make an impression or perception yet to change this takes a lot of work and time.  We fight change – good or bad we fight it.  So if you are off to change your perception it is going to take time and consistency.  One good day will not change someone’s mind.  It takes lots of good days, consecutively with the same positive intent before others will begin to think about changing their mind.  But like anything else – if it is something you truly want then all the hard work and focus is worth it in the end.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.




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