Perception Management

What do you communicate to others that you are not aware of?  Photo courtesy of

What do you communicate to others that you are not aware of? Photo courtesy of

What is perception management?

We sum people up in about three seconds when we first meet somebody. It’s tough. We would all like to be understood for our true selves, but that often takes a lot more time than three seconds.

What do your nonverbals communicate about you?

We ‘broadcast’ a lot of information though:

  • how we hold ourselves
  • the language we choose
  • our tone of voice
  • what we wear

We choose to either ‘norm’ to a group, or define ourselves as being on the edge of a group through what we wear. Sit in the foyer of any large corporation to get a sense of the dress-code for that particular business. Even the counter-culture has its own codes (beards, anyone?)

Where do you stand in relation to the ‘norm’ of your group?

Do you need to amplify, or balance something out?

I once worked with a tall, handsome and fit mortgage broker on his nonverbals. He needed to communicate trustworthiness, warmth and credibility straight away to new clients.

With a large build, and over six feet of commanding height we needed to balance these elements out with warmth so that his stature wasn’t intimidating.

How can you find out how others perceive you?

  1. Ask. Often people I coach have been given feedback repeatedly about certain elements of how they are perceived. If you hear something more than once, it might be worth paying attention.

  2. Seeing is believing. Video yourself. In a recent coaching session, a wonderful, vibrant leader saw herself hunching in the video of her presentation, and said ‘I can’t believe I sit like that!’

  3. If you were to be played by an actor, how would they need to dress, talk and hold themselves to accurately portray you? Again, ask someone you trust.

Once you have some information, you can make choices about how you want to be perceived. If someone says that you appear intimidating, and dress like a mafia boss, it might be time to look around your office and take note of what others are wearing- then get a friend to take you shopping.

Unless you are a mafia boss… then you can be secure in the knowledge that nobody has to stretch their imagination to see you how you want to be seen.

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