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  • Writer's pictureHouria Bellatif

Perception is Powerful

Have you ever heard someone say, "I don't care how others perceive me"? Maybe you've even said it yourself. It's a common phrase used by people who value independence and confidence in their own skin. But what if I told you that perception is one of our most potent tools for shaping relationships, leadership abilities, and social interactions? It may be tempting to dismiss how others perceive us, but the truth is that our perception of others and their perception of us can have a profound impact on our lives. 

The human mind is a complex system, and one of its most remarkable abilities is to perceive the world around us. Our perception of the external environment and its people shapes our experiences and behavior. Perception is a critical instrument that affects our interactions with others, yet it is often overlooked in our daily lives. Intentions are closely linked to perceptions; they can shape how we perceive people and things surrounding us, while our perceptions can influence the goals and actions we pursue.

A Harvard Business Review survey found that 24% of managers believed they were effective leaders, while only 4% of their subordinates agreed

Perception and intention can influence one another in many ways. 

  • For example, our intentions can shape the way we perceive situations we are in. Imagine you are at a conference and notice someone who seems to be avoiding you. Your intentions can shape your perception of this situation. If you have a positive intention towards the person, such as wanting to get to know them better, you may interpret their behavior as shyness or discomfort around new people. On the other hand, if you have a negative intention towards the person, such as thinking that they don't like you, you may interpret their behavior as rudeness or hostility.

  • Similarly, our perception can also shape our intentions. For instance, let's say you're walking on a busy street and spot an acquaintance in the distance. If you perceive this person as unfriendly or unapproachable, your intention might be to avoid them and keep walking. However, if you perceive them as approachable and open, your intention could be to stop and have a conversation with them. But what if your perception is wrong? Maybe the person is friendly and open, but you let your preconceptions influence your intention. In this case, you might miss out on an opportunity to build a relationship or learn something new.

This misalignment between perception and intention can have more severe consequences in the workplace. For example, a Harvard Business Review survey found that 24% of managers believed they were effective leaders, while only 4% of their subordinates agreed. This misalignment can lead to conflicts, misunderstandings, and a lack of trust between team members.

The relationship between perception and intention is bidirectional and dynamic, creating a feedback loop. As we interact with our environment, our perceptions and intention constantly adjust and adapt to each other, enabling us to navigate the world effectively.

So how do we ensure that our intentions align with how others perceive our actions?

1.  Be aware of your biases and beliefs: Recognize your past experiences, cultural background, and personal biases and how they shape your ideas. Be mindful of these influences and try to view situations and people objectively. (Link to Bias Infographic)

 2. Practice active listening: Actively listen to what others say and try to understand their point of view. This will help you to build empathy and understanding, which can help you to align your intentions with their perceptions.

 3. Be clear and direct in your communication: When communicating with others, be clear and direct about your intentions. This will help to avoid misunderstandings and make sure that your intentions are aligned with their perceptions. And you know what comes before that? "Be clear and direct with yourself."

 4. Ask for feedback from others to see how they perceive your intentions. This can help you to adjust your behavior and communication to better align with their perceptions.

 5. Be open to feedback from others and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. This can help you better align your intentions with the perceptions of others.

6.  Avoid making assumptions about others based on limited information or past experiences. Instead, try to approach each situation with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Stay curious! And that does not mean you have to be in agreement.

Perception and intention significantly influence how we interact with others and navigate our personal and professional lives. It's easy to dismiss how others perceive us, but doing so can have profound consequences on us. I encourage you to reflect on how you perceive others and take action to align your intentions with the perceptions of those around you. What will you do differently today?

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