Human beings worry about other people’s perceptions of us. And there is good reason to worry since we don’t live as islands. We socialise and work with others. Others have power and influence over our access to: resources, jobs, acceptance and inclusion in social groups, etc.
Therefore, it is not wise to disregard what perceptions other people may harbour about us, aware that our access to society and resources may depend on them and their perceptions of us. We have to understand and manage what others think about us, and it’s the painful game of personal brand management.
It’s true, at least where we come from (Nakabugu – that village in Uganda), that people don’t tell you on the face what they think about you, especially when it’s negative. Even in traditionally blunt cultures, and we have seen and lived in some, they don’t tell people in public that they stink.
Human beings censor feedback that isn’t pleasant. And if the input isn’t censored, it’s sandwiched to make it less painful to the receiver of the feedback. Sadly, the authenticity and value of feedback tend to get lost in doing the latter. So, while we are left feeling good or better when feedback isn’t brutal, the change we need to attain to improve our perception by others is elusive. And with change not forthcoming, the individual perceptions index stagnates at the low end.
Also, individuals deal with two perceptive realities: the half and the actual perception. The latter can be confusing and doesn’t bring about much-needed individual change and acceptance by those that perceive others negatively. A double position on the perception index is denial of opportunity to address the matters arising from others’ perceptions of us. We are ultimately ‘judged’ and ‘value-placed’ using the most accurate perception.
And the above is the enigma for us, whether in personal business or even more critical, white collar/knowledge work environments. How do we get a perception-index rating that isn’t massaged?
The reason we want to get the authentic individual perception-index is multi-pronged:
- You can target individual improvements to your exact weaknesses.
- You can make authentic judgements re.: confident career choices. I know individuals who tell us they will never do the job we do because they know themselves so well. Indeed, knowing oneself well is facilitated by authentic ratings on the perception-index, and the latter isn’t easy coming by.
- Addresses the human tendency to overate ourselves. Have you ever gotten feedback, negative at that, that surprises you so much and gets you shaken for hours, if not days? Without perception-index checks, we are human and overrate ourselves. For example, people in power aren’t always lucky to be told the truth and tend to miss out on authentic perception-index ratings and, in tow, proper awareness about their flaws. With such blind spots, the powerful tend to assume near perfection and are blind to their more profound faults.
What Matters and the fix:
The litmus test re.: what other people think about you is what they say when you are away and feel that they are in safe space’
The safety factor to speak what they genuinely think of other people is usually guaranteed in miniature social group settings like: a tribe, clan, nationality, and spousal (formal/informal) moments. In such environments, the guard is down given the assumption and assurance of social loyalty and accompanying safety guarantees – i.e. individual names aren’t tagged to feedback.
It’s the safety to speak without worrying that what they say shall get passed on with their names, that opens the authentic perceptions tap. No wonder nation-state spy agents have used social circles to get private information that would never be said publicly. Humans are wired to economise the truth about others, predominantly when negative; they speak truth about others when they trust that should what they say get passed on, it’s not with their name tag.
The fix is to accept that human beings do not comfortably speak truth to others, especially when it’s negative behaviour and low-level individual competence. They want leakage-proof mechanisms to provide a clue of truth about others. Or else what they provide is mostly confetti perceptions or nothing. More often than not, the more genuine souls choose to stay quiet.
For those in professional work environments, the 360-degree feedback process is meant to guarantee blindness of feedback source, invoke a feeling of anonymity and safety and with the latter, the unlocking of truthfulness about our perceptions of other people. And the assumption is that a thoughtful sample of feedback givers is good enough to form an accurate perception-index rating.
And we can write on this blog that when administered well, 360-degree feedback provides authentic perception-index ratings.
In the quasi-formal business world, governance of nation-states, and other loosely organised parts of society, social connections and intelligence hardware are used to tap conversations and get accurate perceptions about ourselves and others.
Such is the scarcity and premium attached to authentic perception-indexes that we invest time and money to go underground and acquire the same.
So – do you know what people will say about you when you aren’t with them, and they feel safe to speak?
If you aren’t retired, invest resources (time and money) to acquire an accurate individual perception index. Not understanding how you are perceived and the required mitigation has derailed seemingly solid professional careers and other social pathways.
FYI – in the digital world we live in, there are professionals paid to do this for you.