Thursday, January 24, 2008

Perception in Business vs. Private Understanding

Earlier this month, I posted on truth vs perception. And although, I only received one comment on the blog, the post has prompted quite a few conversations off-line about the topic. So I thought it warranted further discussion here. (And I encourage people to comment under an alias, if need be, so they can contribute to the discussion.)

The camps of thinking vary--there's the binary, absolution approach to truth versus perception, then there's the gray area approach, which is more ad hoc. I think I'm party to the gray area view, but I haven't always been.

So here are the options:

Binary 1: Perception

Summary: It's your responsibility to be perceived correctly.
Benefit: You're always in control of the situation.
Pitfall: Miscommunication is your always fault.

Binary 2: Truth / Understanding
Summary: Other people should seek to understand.
Benefit: It's not your fault if someone does get you.
Pitfall: (potentially) Denies culpability for your actions.

The Grey Area: Ad Hoc
Summary: Depends on the situation.
Benefit: You tailor your approach to your surroundings (ex. with friends, you hope they get you; in a professional setting, you have to make sure your meaning is their perception).
Pitfall: The situational boundaries aren't 100% clear anymore (ex. friend / professional).

Choose an approach and defend. (Use an alias if need be!)


ez said...


great observation.

some say “perception is everything “ – we all know that in personal relationship it is only true for limited amount of time. In business (non-personal ) it can last for very long time sometime forever, although it can be very far from the truth - "google is precived as search engine" - is that true anymore?

Sandy said...

Ez--That's an interesting point. To what degree is perception determined by first impressions, in either business or personal arenas?

I used to argue that it was the person doing the perceiving's responsibility to get it right. That's probably the point of view that allows people to not give a shit about what other people think. However, while that sounds cool, it could cost you your job.

So in the professional setting, and in business generally, perception is important. Then you have to ask yourself, should you provide your personal connections with the same level of consideration that you would provide your boss? the answer should probably be yes, but one would hope that the personal contact is more capable of understanding your true intentions and getting passed the fundamental attribution error. But that's not always the case is it?

ez said...


This is fun..

I believe that it depends on the ‘interactivity level’ – if the relationships are highly interactive, the truth eventually will win. So in personal relationships, which hopefully it is highly interactive J perception is something you need to get the first attention, the rest should be the real truth.

In business most of the interaction are not highly interactive – so perception is key, and yes it is the person who is ‘broadcasting’ responsibility to do it right, and yes it is critical to do so, job etc….

As for giving %^I& to what other people are thinking about you, one should do what he thinks is right – sometime it is ok not to do it – but for a short time. One should do what makes him/her happy, if you are happy good chance that people around you will be happy with you – if this is not the case you don’t to be around them anyway…

Sandy said...


Although I agree with your characterization of interpersonal relations in a professional setting compared to more personal ones, I think it's a sad state of affairs.

Perhaps the real reason why I find this perception versus truth debate so irritating is that I'm a burned idealist that would like very much to believe that everyone seeks to understand before judging, but I know better.

I think the difference between personal and business interactions in this reference to this debate is simple. In personal relationships, if someone lies, cheats or steals, you can confront them, distance yourself or take other action. That's not always true in business relations, where everyone has to play the game in their prescribed roles.

Sad to think about it.