We’ve talked about impression management as one of the pieces of our decision rulers. We have a vision of how we want to be perceived by others, and most everything we do and say is calculated to ensure that others see us in that way. However, how we want to be seen and how we are really seen by others can be vastly different.
One of the challenges to becoming an extraordinary leader is getting an accurate picture of how we are perceived by others. We believe that we project a certain image, but people’s perceptions of us can be quite different.
For example, I might believe that I am a confident and knowledgeable person. However, most people may perceive me as being an arrogant know-it-all. The difference between my intent and others’ perceptions might not be as drastic as this example, but they are rarely the same.
We can discover how we are seen by others, but it takes some courage and an open mind. We must pay attention to the reactions that we get from other people and the things that they say about us.
One time, a friend sent me a video of an artist demonstrating how to make decorative Christmas trees. She said that the artist reminded her of me. I watched the video and only saw a mild similarity, so I started to dismiss the whole thing from my mind. Then, I decided to get curious. What did she see in the video that I was not seeing?
I wrote back that the artist did seem to talk in the same rambling and chatty way that I do sometimes. My friend came back and said, “Yes, and she’s tall like you.” I am almost six feet tall, and I forget that my height is a huge part of who I am to the rest of the world.
What I do with the information that I glean from others is up to me. I can play up my height and wear heels to seem more powerful, soften my communication style to compensate, or just be aware that I can seem a little intimidating at first just because of my height.
As leaders, we want to know how others see us. We can do this by watching out for clues from other people. People tell me all the time in a very sarcastic tone, “Why don’t you tell us what you really think?” That lets me know that I’m seen as a person with definite opinions who shares them freely. Is that good or bad? I get to decide!
The information that we gather about ourselves is just more information about us that leads to greater self-awareness. We totally get to decide whether we want to do anything differently or just be more aware. I do not plan to stop sharing my definite opinions and great ideas any time soon! (Although I do try to maintain a little grace and a lot of respect while I do it. 😉)
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