Have you ever thought about the message you’re sending when you’re not saying word? It’s worth thinking about because the perception others have of you impacts trust, credibility, and influence. How you are perceived is how you are received.

A popular study by UCLA Professor Albert Mehrabian showed that your words only make up 7% of the message you’re sending. How you say it and how you look when you say it have a much bigger impact on the message. 38% and 55% respectively.

While words only make up a small percent of the actual message you are communicating, they can have a big impact on how you are perceived. If you want to build consensus, stick to assertive language such as “I need” and “I want” versus “You have to” or “You should.” Almost no one likes being told what they have to do or what they should do. Giving orders makes you sound bossy.perception

How you sound can send a message too. Do you sound rushed? Annoyed? Bored? There are six vocal qualities that impact how your message sounds: pitch, tone, pace, volume, articulation, and fluctuation. Being soft-spoken can send the message that you are passive, even you aren’t. Being monotone can send the message that you’re bored. Talking too fast can give the impression that you don’t have time for questions.

What people see makes up the largest component of your message. This includes body language, facial expressions, your desk and work environment, your wardrobe, and accessories to name a few. Think about all the people who walk by you and see you on any given day – managers, peers, direct reports, customers, vendors – what do they see? They may never have any interaction with you other than the visual that you are presenting. If you are too focused you may give the impression that you are unapproachable. That can create a lack of trust. If your desk is too messy it can look like you are unorganized. That can affect your credibility.

If what they are seeing isn’t in line with what you want them to see you can change that. Here’s how:

3 D’s to influence the perception others have of you:

  1. Determine the perception have of you.

Ask 5 people directly – What 3 words would you use to describe me as a leader? Or, send out an anonymous survey using www.surveymonkey.com.

What were the most common words you heard? Don’t get offended or take it personally if the responses aren’t what you were hoping for. It’s just information and you need to know what people see so you can change the perception they have. Focus on the common responses from multiple people instead of getting hung up on one.

  1. Decide how you want to be perceived.

Write down 3 words you would like people when describing you as a leader. Put the words on a sticky note and post it somewhere so you can review it frequently during the day.

  1. Do a regular self-check. Are the words you chose congruent with your actions and appearance?

Facial expressions – do you self-regulate your emotions or does impatience show?

Body language – do you twitch, tap, or fidget in your chair when meeting with people?

Accessories – do you wear headphones at work? They give the impression that you are unapproachable. Do you check your phone during meetings? It gives the impression that other people are unimportant.

Clothing – the saying goes dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Are you dressed appropriately for your workplace?

Office décor –what do your photos, trinkets, and personal items say about you?

Organization – does your desk make you look trustworthy or messy?

When you pay attention to how others perceive you and understand how that impacts how they receive you, you can adjust to optimize your interactions. You will see an increase in trust, influence, and credibility. That translates to more opportunities for you.

Perception is Reality: What Message Are You Sending?
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