Perception is Reality

Perception is Reality

The phrase “intent vs. impact” is a similar concept. 

Have you ever experienced a misunderstanding over what you thought was something clearly communicated without any emotional component?  Did you ever have an unexpected impact on a person to whom you were communicating and had no understanding as to why?

The phrase “perception is reality” is so true!

What people perceive is usually what they believe, and it is based on what they see, hear and think.

Definition of Interpersonal Perception

  • Interpersonal perception is a specific area of psychology related to how people view one another. This theory of perception is considered an important part of effective communication because it examines the various judgments that people make about others based on both verbal and non-verbal cues. Understanding these behaviors is often helpful for eliciting favorable reactions from other people.

Non-Verbal Cues

  • Eye Contact:  Looking, staring and blinking can also be important nonverbal behaviors.
  • Facial Expressions:  Facial expressions are responsible for a huge proportion of nonverbal communication.
  • Paralinguistics:  Refers to vocal communication that is separate from actual language. This includes factors such as tone of voice, loudness, inflection and pitch.
  • Gestures:  Deliberate movements and signals are an important way to communicate meaning without words. Common gestures include waving, pointing, and using fingers to indicate numeric amounts. 
  • Body Language and Posture:  Posture and movement can also convey a great deal of information. For example, arm-crossing can be perceived as a defensive post
  • Proxemics:  People often refer to their need for “personal space,” which is also an important type of nonverbal communication. The amount of distance we need and the amount of space we perceive as belonging to us is influenced by a number of factors including social norms, situational factors, personality characteristics and level of familiarity.
  • Appearance:  Our choice of color, clothing, hairstyles and other factors affecting appearance are also considered a means of nonverbal communication. Research on color psychology has demonstrated that different colors can evoke different moods.

Take Action

  • Pay Attention to Nonverbal Signals:  People can communicate information in numerous ways; so pay attention to things like eye contact, gestures, posture, body movements, and tone of voice. All of these signals can convey important information that isn’t put into words. By paying closer attention to other people’s unspoken behaviors, you will improve your own ability to communicate nonverbally.
  • Look for Incongruent Behaviors:  If someone’s words do not match their nonverbal behaviors, you should pay careful attention. For example, someone might tell you they are happy while frowning and staring at the ground. Research has shown that when words fail to match up with nonverbal signals, people tend to ignore what has been said and focus instead on unspoken expressions of moods, thoughts, and emotions.
  • Concentrate on Your Tone of Voice When Speaking:  Your tone of voice can convey a wealth of information, ranging from enthusiasm to disinterest to anger. Start noticing how your tone of voice affects how others respond to you and try using tone of voice to emphasize ideas that you want to communicate. For example, if you want to show genuine interest in something, express your enthusiasm by using an animated tone of voice.
  • Use Good Eye Contact:  When people fail to look others in the eye, it can seem as if they are evading or trying to hide something. On the other hand, too much eye contact can seem confrontational or intimidating. While eye contact is an important part of communication, it’s important to remember that good eye contact does not mean staring fixedly into someone’s eyes. How can you tell how much eye contact is correct? Some communication experts recommend intervals of eye contact lasting four to five seconds.
  • Ask Questions About Nonverbal Signals:  If you are confused about another person’s nonverbal signals, don’t be afraid to ask questions. A good idea is to repeat back your interpretation of what has been said and ask for clarification. An example of this might be, “So what you are saying is that…“
  • Consider Context:  When you are communicating with others, always consider the situation and the context in which the communication occurs. Some situations require more formal behaviors that might be interpreted very differently in any other setting. Consider whether or not nonverbal behaviors are appropriate for the context.
  • Be Aware That Signals Can be Misread:  According to some, a firm handshake indicates a strong personality while a weak handshake is taken as a lack of fortitude. This example illustrates an important point about the possibility of misreading nonverbal signals. A limp handshake might actually indicate something else entirely, such as arthritis. Always remember to look for groups of behavior. A person’s overall demeanor is far more telling than a single gesture viewed in isolation.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice:  Some people just seem to have a knack for using nonverbal communication effectively and correctly interpreting signals from others. These people are often described as being able to “read people.” In reality, you can build this skill by paying careful attention to nonverbal behavior and practicing different types of nonverbal communication with others. By noticing nonverbal behavior and practicing your own skills, you can dramatically improve your communication abilities.

Verbal Cues

  • Speaking is such an indelible activity; we tend to do it without much thought. Have you ever wished you could make a second, first impression because you said something that was out of character or embarrassing?
  • Speaking can be used as a tool to accomplish your objectives. But, first you must break the habit of talking spontaneously without planning what you’re going to say or how you’re going to say it.
  • You must learn to manage the impression you create by consciously tailoring your remarks and delivery style to suit the situation.

Here are some things which will make you an effective communicator:

  • Remember to become aware of what you are saying.
  • Apply the same process you use in written communication when you are communicating orally.
  • Before you speak, think about your purpose, your main idea, and your audience.
  • Organize your thoughts in a logical way.
  • Decide on a style that suits the occasion and then edit your remarks mentally.
  • As you speak, watch the other person to see whether your message is making the desired impression. If not, revise it and try again.

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