If you were signing an important business contract, you wouldn’t just assume your best interests were represented and sign it, would you? Of course not! You would read the contract carefully, ask questions and engage legal counsel if you needed help. So why then, when we interact with our employer, clients or even colleagues, do we so often project our own fears, insecurities and biases on others and assume they feel the same way we do?
Here are some situations where we might assume we know the outcome of the scenario we are operating in:
- If I email the recruiter I just met with about the status of my job application, I will come across as pushy and overly anxious…
- If I call the girl I had a date with only two days ago, she will think I’m desperate…
- If I approach my boss about a promotion, he will think I’m impatient in my current job and am not focused on doing the work he’s asked of me…
- If I increase my hourly rate, my clients will think I’m too expensive and will find another vendor…
- If I email my client after delivering their product and ask for feedback on the experience, they will think I’m trying to sell them something and be turned off…
- When my supervisor told me the changes I need to my presentation, he basically told me he doesn’t believe in my abilities…
- If I ask my colleagues for feedback on my personal brand, they will see me as weak and insecure…
When we project our beliefs and biases onto our audience, we limit the span of possibilities. And often, we are wrong! While it is critical to understand the functional and emotional needs of your target audience in order to project your personal brand in a way they will find relevant, we cannot assume we know the situation, circumstances and emotional condition of the people we encounter. Human beings are complex and bring emotional histories, prejudices and preconceived preferences to every encounter.
While it’s easy to assume the negative in situations, let’s look at the examples above and consider a more positive perspective on the situation:
- If I email the recruiter I just met with about the status of my job application –
- He might perceive that I am very interested in the job opportunity
- He could believe I’m considering other job options and if he wants me, he’d better act fast
- He might see my commitment to follow up as a good sign
- If I call the girl I had a date with only two days ago –
- She might see how much I like her and want to get to know me better
- She could be relieved that I’m not one of “those guys” who plays games
- She could be thinking of me at this moment and be happy to hear from me!
- If I approach my boss about a promotion –
- He could recognize me as leadership potential
- He might see that I am focused on my career at this company, and am not at risk for leaving
- He might give me more opportunities and resources to perform at a higher level
- If I increase my hourly rate –
- My clients might be fine with it, recognizing I am worth more
- My clients could become more responsible and focused around change orders, which eat up my profitability
- My clients could perceive my value as more exclusive and give me more important projects
- If I email my client after delivering their product, and ask for feedback on the experience –
- They could recognize I am committed to improving my offer
- They might know my commitment to ensuring they had a positive experience with me
- They might reinforce the good feelings they have about our working relationship as they answer questions about how well I serve them
- When my supervisor told me the changes I need to my presentation –
- He might have been offering me coaching feedback, when I wanted positive affirmation
- He could see me as a leader in the company and want me to be my best
- He may want to save me the pain of learning the hard way, like he did
- If I ask my colleagues for feedback on my personal brand –
- They could see me as genuine and relatable
- They could become vested in my success
- They might be curious to hear what I learn about my personal brand and how they can continue to serve me in my career
There are many ways to look at every situation. Our perspective comes from how we see a situation, yet we often, mistakenly, believe everyone sees the world as we do.
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