Part of what makes my job fun is that no two clients are trying to solve the same problem. But whether it’s about leading with confidence and authority, managing conflict, or public speaking, they do all share one fundamental challenge: a perception gap, or “blind spot.”
You see when it comes to skills of persuasion and influence, the way you come across to others can make or break your chances of getting to “yes.” The problem is that most people know how they want to come across to others, and they know how they think they come across, but they are also remarkably unaware of how they actually come across. That gap in their perception is their blind spot.
The irony is that they are present in the moment when they interact with others: they hear their own speech and would generally believe they have control over their body and facial expressions, but the way the scene appears to play out in their minds is often very different from other people’s experience. At one time or another, we all suffer from this perception gap. So why does this happen, and how can you close the gap?
Let’s look at those three components again.
First, how do you want to come across? This connotes an intentionality, and requires some forethought prior to the conversation or presentation. Part of the problem is that most people plan for and attend meetings on auto-pilot, and fail to put any planning effort into this question. If you want people to recognize your confidence, or if you want them to see you as approachable even in times of crisis, it is critical to start with that goal in mind, and consciously monitor your participation to keep your message on track.
Second, how do you think you come across? As the meeting progresses, and/or after it’s over, take stock of how you feel at the time. For example, if midway through the meeting you can feel yourself getting agitated and defensive, remind yourself not to let your emotions get the best of you. Take a deep breath, and watch your tone of voice, body language, etc. At the end, try to reflect on what you said and how you felt at the time, and acknowledge when your speech style did or did not feel like it reflected the way you wanted to appear. Make a point to note any discrepancies to work on them for next time.
Finally, how do you actually come across? Once you’ve attempted to assess your own behavior, seek objective feedback from others. Ask them for overall impressions you made, and if they felt that you did or did not demonstrate the qualities you wanted to project. Regardless of the answer, follow up with asking why. If they say you seemed calm, nervous, moody, distracted, confident or otherwise, ask them to point out any specific behaviors that led to that impression. Maybe you didn’t realize that you kept crossing and uncrossing your arms which appeared standoffish, or only seemed to speak with people at the front of the room and ignored those in the back. Or maybe you spoke with far less intonation variation than you thought, so while you wanted to sound engaged and engaging, people actually found you to be disengaged and appear a bit indifferent. Just remember to assure them that you will openly and graciously accept their feedback, no matter what they share, and that it won’t come back to haunt them if it’s not what you had hoped to hear.
Want to test yourself? Try recording yourself in a one-minute video as you imagine yourself speaking to your upcoming audience, whoever they may be. Go through these steps, planning how you want to come across, practicing mindfulness as you speak, and then watching the video to see where there is a gap between your planning and execution. Once you’ve identified your own blind spots, then you can take meaningful steps to close the perception gap and ensure that your message lands as intended, and you are able to influence the conversation as desired to get the desired outcome.
Are you aware of your own blind spots, but don’t know how to fix them? Or are you unsure of where they might be but recognize that you need to identify and fix them? If so, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to schedule a 20-minute focus call to discuss it with me personally!
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