This is the time of year when many of us have recently received feedback about our performance and competencies. Hopefully there were really no surprises because you were in regular conversation with your manager about how you were doing, what was going well, and where you needed to improve. Of course, that is not the case for a lot of us. Nonetheless, your feedback may have called attention to a viewpoint about you that you feel is unfair or something that you thought you had addressed and overcome but is raising its ugly head again.

What do you do when there are perceptions of you that you need or want to change? How do you get people to let go of misperceptions or negative perceptions about you? Here are a few suggestions I share with my coaching clients:

  • Understand the feedback – If you hear something that you don’t agree with or fully understand, then it is your responsibility to ask questions and get clarification. Make sure to ask for examples and specific instances when the particular behavior was seen. Also be sure that your definition of the problem or issue is in line with the other person’s definition. If you think that a timely response is before the end of the week and your boss defines timely as within 24 hours, then that is really important to know.
  • Be honest with yourself – No matter how frustrating or angering the feedback is, try to see the grain of truth in it. Ask yourself: why would a reasonable, intelligent person see me in this way? Have I heard the same or similar feedback before?
  • Ask someone you trust – If you can’t get your head around the feedback and see the other person’s point of view, find a trusted person in your life – your significant other, your best friend, your work buddy, your mentor – and share the feedback with them and ask for their thoughts and opinions about it. They may be able to help you find the grain of truth or perspective that can help you address the feedback in a positive way.
  • Help people see a different view – Sometimes people get stuck on the same record. They see you as the person who never talks in meetings and that belief has gotten locked in. In order to help them see that you now freely speak up in meetings, you may have to call it out. One way to do that is to share with the person who has the old perception that you have been working on speaking up more and ask them to give you feedback about that at the next meeting. Once you put them on notice, they will pay attention to the multiple times you shared ideas and input at the meeting.

Have a plan of action – Once you understand the feedback, then it is time to develop an action plan to change perceptions. You have to determine what specific steps you will take to put a negative perception to rest. Ask for help if you are unsure what steps you can take.

Misperceptions can be hard to shift but it is possible to get others to see a different side of you. Being open to the feedback, understanding it, and helping others to notice how that perception they have is offbase are key actions for getting back on track.

What misperceptions are you trying to get away from?
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