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Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication

By Terri Davis, Director of Client Relations
And Tom Brennan, Senior Writer


Part 1: Effective communication is a deliberate act

Without much effort, most of us can have a casual conversation and the messages are pretty clear. But when there is something at stake — a client relationship or a problem to resolve — we need to pay attention not only to WHAT we say, but also HOW we say it. The fact is, there is something more at stake: how we are PERCEIVED by the people with whom we communicate. This applies to different kinds of relationships, including coworkers, customers, job candidates . . . heck, it probably wouldn’t hurt to try it on your spouse once in a while. It’s also relevant to how your company is perceived in the market, how your leadership team is perceived by employees, and other contexts.

Over the next few posts I will explore some tactics for taking a deliberate approach to shaping perception. A quick example should underscore the importance. Suppose Randy Recruiter is sourcing for candidates to fill three Quality Technician openings, working with three different hiring managers (HMs) at the same company. Two of the positions are filled, and Randy asks the third HM, “What did you think of the leftover candidates?” Ouch.

How Do You Want to be Perceived?

That HM would have had a much different perception of Randy if he had said, “Your peers had a tough time deciding among the candidates, but here are three candidates that I recommend for your opening.” A good starting point is to ask yourself, “How do I want to be perceived when this interaction is over?” If you’re okay being perceived as the person holding a plastic container of mystery morsels from the fridge, then “leftover candidates” will work.

Assuming you DON’T want to be that person, it’s essential to put yourself in the shoes of the person on the other end of the interaction. When you communicate, you know what is in your own mind — the context, the history, the details — but the other person doesn’t. Therefore, before you simply state, “We need to do this,” or “You can’t do that,” try providing an executive summary of the context.

Delivering the Tough Messages

Back to Randy for an example: a couple of weeks into a difficult search, he has exhausted several strategies and has discovered that only a very small pool of candidates meets Henrietta Hiring Manager’s requirements. It’s clear to Randy that something needs to give (requirements, compensation, etc.) or this search will stretch on and on.

Randy might approach Henrietta Hiring Manager and say, “Which requirements are you willing to give up to get this filled?” But what will Henrietta’s perception be? That Randy is a whiner trying to make his job easier?

However, if Randy takes a moment to recognize that Henrietta doesn’t yet know what he does, he might say instead: “Here is what I have tried and here is the market intelligence I have gathered. I think we need to make a change. . . What are your flexibility points and how would YOU like to proceed in order for this to end in a successful hire?” Henrietta may not be happy about having to change course, but now she perceives Randy as a value-adding partner who is top of his game.

Results + Perception = Value

At Decision Toolbox we believe that our clients’ perception of us is essential, and it is based on more than just the results we deliver. Our focus is on being that value-adding partner for every search, so that clients recognize we are worth much more than they pay us.

In my next post I’ll write about a framework for managing perception called F.I.R.E. It’ll be hot, so you’ll finally have a reason to wear those $500 Gucci high top sneakers you bought last year!

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5 Responses to “Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication”

  1. April 01, 2013 at 6:19 am, Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication, Part 2 | Blog | Decision Toolbox said:

    […] how managers are perceived by direct reports . . . almost any interaction you can think of. In my previous post I suggested that the first step is asking yourself, “how do I want to be perceived in this […]


  2. April 08, 2013 at 5:00 am, Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication, Part 3 | Blog | Decision Toolbox said:

    […] Part 1 of this blog series, I made a case for deliberately managing perception in interactions — […]


  3. April 16, 2013 at 7:35 am, Shaping Perception in the Art of Communication, Part 4 | Blog | Decision Toolbox said:

    […] plot so far: in Part 1 I made a case for taking a deliberate approach to shaping perception. Part 2 outlined a strategy […]


  4. May 13, 2013 at 6:56 am, Five Characteristics of Great Culture | Blog | Decision Toolbox said:

    […] Great culture is fluent in tribal-speak. Did you read Terri Davis’ recent blogs on managing perception in communication? Good stuff. At DT we want our people’s perception to […]


  5. April 04, 2016 at 7:30 am, Five Characteristics of Great Culture | BIZCATALYST 360° said:

    […] Great culture is fluent in tribal-speak. Did you read Terri Davis’ recent blogs on managing perception in communication? Good stuff. At DT we want our people’s perception to be […]


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