Perception is Reality

Why figure out how to get people to understand you? You know that saying, “Perception is reality?” Well, it’s true, and explains it really well. If you don’t work at getting people to understand your perspective, you could find yourself inadvertently creating situations at work that lead to your career being thwarted or you losing your job.

Like it or not, work is social

Here’s the deal. Work is a different type of social setting and in social settings, when people understand each other they get better results – whether on projects, in meetings, or just around the office. When you understand each other better, you know what to expect from each other and can develop more productive relationships.

The number one way to help people understand you better is to communicate in a way that accurately and respectfully conveys your intentions. For example, you believe you are a good team member. However, when you are in a meeting talking about your ideas and you refuse to let anyone ask you any questions, that is not how you come across.

Instead, your co-workers probably think you are being rude or, even worse, arrogant. Why? Because in meetings, people ask each other questions. Good presenters, who want to convey that they respect their colleagues, connect with them. How? They listen carefully to questions and give thoughtful responses. They make appropriate eye contact and speak appropriately. So, if you want people to understand your point of view and understand that you’re part of a team, you learn how to welcome their questions.

How Do I Navigate Questions in the Workplace?

Uh-oh. What if you don’t know how to answer questions appropriately? What if when you hear a question, you become anxious and worried that people think you don’t know what you’re talking about – or – you’re worried that you don’t know how to answer appropriately so you shut down the questions.

That’s when you need to practice with people you trust. Set up a practice meeting. Ask someone who you trust at work – or elsewhere – to help you. Practice the give and take of presenting information and having someone ask you questions about the information. Ask them to give you feedback. Practicing the meeting format will give you an opportunity to work on eye contact, tone of voice, answering questions, and learning how to say “I need to think about that.” You will be tweaking your social skills so they match your intentions.

While you’re practicing having a meeting, you can also practice taking other people’s perspectives so you have a better idea of how you come across to others. Your trusted co-worker, manager, or friend can tell you how it feels to work with you. And then you can ask how to improve.

If you trust your manager, and they’ve shown that they are committed to your success at work, they are uniquely situated to give you input about your behavior because they observe you working with your peers. They have a bigger picture of how you function at work. If you don’t trust your manager, stick with your peers.

Your Employer Wants You to Succeed

Because, here’s the thing, people want to help you. They can see you struggling. They hired you. They want you to succeed. So, ask for input; ask for advice; ask for help practicing the things you struggle with. When you ask for help, you let people know that you are committed to the team; you want to become a better team member. And, here’s a secret, when you ask someone for help, you’re helping them develop their skills, too.

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