Improving Social Perception
The following guidelines can aid you in constructing a more realistic impression of others as well as in assessing the validity of your own perceptions.
1. Question the accuracy of your perceptions. Questioning accuracy begins by saying, I know what I think I saw, heard, tasted, smelled, or felt, but I could be wrong. What else could help me sort this out? By accepting the
possibility of error you, may be motivated to seek further verification. In situations where the accuracy of perception is important, take a few seconds to double-check. It will be worth the effort.
2. Seek more- information. to verify perceptions. If your perception has been based on only one or 2 pieces of information, try to collect additional information before you allow yourself to form an impression so that you can increase the accuracy of your perceptions. At least note that your perception is tentative-that is, subject to change. You can then make a conscious effort to collect more data to determine whether the original perception is accurate. The best way to get information about people is to talk with them.
Unfortunately we tend to void people we don’t know much about. It’s OK to be unsure about how to treat someone from another culture or someone who is disabled. But rather than letting this hold you back, ask the person for the information you need to be more comfortable.
3. Realize that perceptions of people may need to be changed over time. People often saddle themselves with perceptions that are based on old or incomplete information and find it easier to stick with a perception, even if it is wrong, than to change it. Willingness to change means making an effort to observe this person’s behavior at other times without bias and being prepared to modify your perception if the person’s behavior warrant, it. It takes strength of character to say to yourself or others, I was wrong. But communication based on outdated, inaccuracy e perceptions be more costly than revising y perceptions.
4. Use perception checking to verify conclusions you have drawn. A perception check is a verbal statement that reflects your own understanding of the meaning of another person’s nonverbal cues. Perception checking calls for you to (1) watch the behavior of the other person, (2) ask yourself, What does that behavior mean to me? and (3) put your interpretation of the behavior into words to verify whether your perception is accurate.
In these two examples the final sentence in each is a perception check:
Ted, the company messenger, delivers a memo to Erin. As Erin reads the note, her eyes brighten and she breaks into a smile. Ted says, Hey, Erin, you seem really pleased. Am I right?
Cesar, speaking in short, precise sentences with a sharp tone of voice, gives Bill his day’s assignment. Bill says, From the sound of your voice, Cesar, I can’t help but get the impression that you’re upset with me. Are you?
Perception checking brings the meaning that was received through nonverbal cues into the verbal realm where it can be verified or corrected. For instance, when Bill says, “I can’t help but get the impression that you’re upset with me. Are you?” Cesar may say (1) “No, whatever gave you that impression? in which case Bill can further describe the cues he received; (2) “Yes, I am,” in which case Bill can get Cesar to specify what has caused the feelings; or (3) “No, it’s not you; it’s just that three of my team members didn’t show up for this. If Cesar is not upset with him, Bill can deal with what caused him to misinterpret Cesar’s feelings. If Cesar is upset with him, Bill has the opportunity of changing the behavior that caused Cesar to be upset. Even though you may be correct most of the time in identifying another person’s feelings, if you do not verbally perception-check, you are still guessing what the other person is really feeling.
You will want to check your perceptions whenever the accuracy of your understanding is important (1) to your current communication, (2) ‘to the relationship you have with the other person, or (3) to the conclusions you draw about that person. Most of us use this skill far too little, if at all.
Although perception checking may not always eliminate defensive behavior, it can reduce the likelihood of misinterpreting another’s nonverbal cues and thus the likelihood of defensiveness. As with most skills, to become competent you must practice.
Summary Perception of Self and Others
Perception is the process of gathering sensory information and assigning meaning to it. Our perceptions are a result of our selection, organization, and interpretation of sensory information. Inaccurate perceptions cause us to see the world not as iris but as we would like it to be.
Self concept is the idea or mental image you have about your skills, your abilities, your knowledge, your competencies, and your personality. Self esteem is the degree to which you have a favorable impression of yourself. The inaccuracy of a distorted picture of oneself becomes magnified through self fulfilling
prophecies and by filtering messages. Our self concept and self esteem moderate competing internal messages in our self talk, influence our perception of other influence our personal communication style and influence how we present ourselves to others in the role we play.
Perception also plays an important role in forming impressions or others. Factors that are likely to influence our social perceptions are physical characteristics and social behaviors, stereotyping, and emotional states. Because research shows that the accuracy of people’s perceptions and judgments varies considerably, your communication will be most successful if you do not rely entirely on your impressions to determine how another person feels or what that person is really like. You will improve (or at least better understand) your perceptions of others if you take into account physical characteristics and social behaviors, stereotyping, and emotional states.
You can learn to improve perception if you actively question the accuracy of your perceptions, seek more information to verify perceptions, talk with the people about whom you a forming perceptions, realize that perceptions of people need to change over time, and check perceptions verbally before you react.