There is one hard and fast rule that never changes and that is The Rule of Perception. It’s like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity for people. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you are trying to achieve, you’ll never prove it wrong.
It enters every aspect of our personal lives; interviews, in business, getting a promotion, dating and sex – everything to do with human relationships. It can make or break you.
The sad truth is that it is as unpredictable as a soap opera script. So let’s talk about you and see how we can apply The Rule of Perception in your life, to your advantage and in any situation. Cast off any preconceived ideas about The Rule of Perception you may have and let’s have a look at what this rule is all about.
Albert Mehrabian, a Professor Emeritus of Psychology, at UCLA found that there are three elements of all face-to-face communication, which impact our ‘liking’ of another.
- 7% words,
- 38% tone of voice and
- 55% body language
There are other lesser elements within these three categories too, which can instantly impact our perception of another, namely,
1. Visual Perception
You don’t pull up weeds dressed in a suit; neither would you go to a funeral in a bikini! You have to be appropriate for the environment you are in, whether it is a party, a business meeting or a wedding. Get it wrong, and you will get some strange looks! People will ‘perceive’ you as being a bit weird!
Make sure you look the part before you leave the house. Is your make-up subtle enough for a business environment, or do you look like Coco the Clown? Clean, pressed clothes show that you care, bed head shows you don’t. We all have our own personal ‘style’ which reflects who we are. Just make sure it is appropriate to the environment you will be entering. Your clothing and grooming is your gift wrap, so to speak.
2. Tone of Voice
Remember the teachers at school? You dreaded going to certain lectures because the speaker spoke in a monotone, you quickly lost interest and perceived the whole subject as boring. Didn’t you learn more from the teacher that cracked jokes, waved his arms around and showed an obvious passion for his subject?
If you talk as if you are reading a telephone book, nobody is going to want to be around you! Public speaking classes teach that you must vary your tone, change the pace of your speech in various places, and speak clearly and at an even pace.
If you have important words to deliver to others, make them clear, precise, interesting and passionate.
3. Energy Levels
Never talk at people; it shows a lack of regard for them. Listen to a good storyteller, perhaps an actor you respect, reading a story. How do they engage you? Their speech varies according to the story; quiet in the right parts and louder and slightly faster when there’s a sense of urgency.
Think of the energy you put into a conversation as being on a sliding scale, say from 1 to 10, where 1 is a whisper and 10 is hysteria. Keep your conversations somewhere between 5 and 8, but use the rest of the scale for effect. If you keep your tone at 5 and below, your conversation will become boring and nobody will remember you or what you were talking about! If you talk constantly above 8, people will think you’re crazy!
The person who puts the most energy into a conversation will always win the sale. They will be perceived as passionate, and influence their listeners in a positive manner.
Whenever you are entering a meeting, remember your tone and energy levels beforehand.
4. Body Language
Reading body language is a useful art. This language includes posture, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact etc., and can also include distances kept with relation to others. Being able to read these can be extremely useful. Police detectives are trained to understand body language, and this can often help them to determine if someone is lying, being honest or hiding something. So when you understand body language your power to understand others dramatically increases.
If you find you are guilty of any of the ‘bad’ body language below, make a conscious effort to stop what it is you are doing wrong.
Be aware of the following;
- Arms crossed – I am disinterested and defensive
- Constricted pupils – I am lying
- Slightly dilated pupils – I see something nice
- Chin up and shoulders back – I am very confident
- In your face – standing too close (less than three feet away) – I am confrontational and a bully
Learn to read this and you can use it to your advantage, for example, in the first case put the other person at ease. You will know that has happened because his arms will uncross! Step back from someone who is ‘in your face’, do it often enough and they will get the hint.
Changing someone’s emotions makes a strong neurological change within them, especially when it’s the first time you meet. Whether someone is happy and you make them miserable or angry and you make them laugh, whatever change you have brought about will impact how they remember you.
Never leave a conversation on an angry or negative note, people will remember that and avoid you like the plague. Be aware of the emotions you radiate to others, if you have learned about body language be aware of that, and also learn to read facial expressions. If you are getting negative ‘vibes’ from the other person, try to steer the conversation to another subject quickly, and always leave your conversation on a positive note and with a handshake or exchange of business cards.
Keep smiling and be positive.
If you say you will call then call, even if it’s someone you didn’t like at first. Always do what you say you are going to do. If you don’t there will be negative consequences. You will be perceived as someone who is “all talk and no action”.
If for any reason you cannot do what you said you were going to do, keep the other person apprised of the situation and try to resolve the problem. Don’t keep promising to do things and making excuses. If you know you can’t do something never promise to do it! In the end, nobody will take you seriously, and in the networking world, the word will get around.
Learn to control yourself, if you behave erratically, people will not trust you. If you are aware of your own unpredictability, do something about it if you can. If you drink eight cups of coffee in the morning and run around like something possessed, but then crash after lunch and can’t get a thing done, you are doing something wrong that can easily be changed. If you have greasy fast food for lunch every day and are miserable with indigestion every afternoon – do something about it! If you come in tired every morning because you can’t sleep properly, well, you get the picture.
It is easy to be influenced by outside factors such as sleep and diet, and women have the added problem of their hormones and cycles, but often these things can be easily kept under control. Keep a journal for a month and grade you emotions at specific times of the day and make a note of what you eat and drink. You may be surprised at how easily you can get yourself on an even keel.
People need to know and trust you in your business relationships, and they want to recommend their calm, smiling, trusted colleague to others. How can they do that if one day you are easy-going and the next day hot-tempered?
Go through the seven steps above and see if you pass. If not, I hate to say this, do something about it!
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