Abraham Lincoln once said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”
His comment is striking because it’s not what we typically experience. All of us have found ourselves on the receiving end of being misunderstood. We know a perception of us was somehow formed that isn’t accurate. If only we had a second chance to remake that first impression.
Now, there’s a least a roadmap to help change those impressions.
In her latest book, No One Understands You and What to Do About It (2015, Harvard Business Review Press), social psychologist, Heidi Grant Halvorson takes up the challenge of how to correct those faulty impressions others may have about us.
“When other people look at you, they see what they expect to see,” writes Dr. Halvorson. That’s because we all take short-cuts in how we perceive our world. Overcoming those initial biases is difficult, but not impossible. The key is to understand the different lenses people (yourself included) view others through. She identifies three:
- The Trust Lens. Subconsciously, the first thing someone assesses when they meet you is whether you can be trusted. How you convey both warmth and competence significantly affects their perceptions of your trustworthiness. The simple practices of good eye-contact and posture go a long way to forming early impressions of trust.
- The Power Lens. Those with more power than you (a boss, a teacher, a friend you owe money to, for instance) will perceive you differently than you perceive them. Research has demonstrated that those in power are less likely to take the time to get to know you, relying instead on stereotypes and prior expectations to form their opinions of you. To break through that you need to demonstrate how you can help them achieve their goals.
- The Ego Lens. Like it or not, others will size you up based on whether they perceive you to be a threat to their self-esteem. If they desire the same accomplishments and abilities as you and they believe you are likely to be active in the circles that matter to them, they will perceive you as a threat and seek to diminish you or distance themselves from you. Not to worry though. Displaying modesty and appropriate affirmation can abate another’s ego—and your own.
Like her other best-selling books (read my review of Succeed: How We Can All Reach Our Goals), No One Understands You, is easy to read, filled with practical examples in business and life, and blended with a nice dollop of self-deprecating humor that will leave you thinking, I like that author; I must get to know her better.
Comment below: What are ways you’ve managed to correct a faulty first impression?
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