We have already delved into the way we portray ourselves to others in pretty minute detail. We also have realized what we say is not always what is heard. The same holds true of the perception of others when it comes to the way they see us. What is it they really see?
The opinions we hold of our own quality are not those which others subscribe to us. When we look at ourselves, we are looking into a fun house mirror. What we are seeing is not the same thing others see in us.
I am an editor.
We have all done it. You write an email. A very important, life-altering email. You read it a dozen times to make certain it is perfect. All of the punctuation is correct. Your points are lined up in specific order. Then, you send it.
It gets no response. You go to your sent folder to read it again. What do you find? The glaring error which completely changes the meaning and tenor of your email. Now, you know why it has not been answered. How did you miss it?
You have been so close to it, been so emotional about it, spent so much time with it. You know what you meant, so when you read it, you did not see the error. You were reading what you meant to write.
Exceptions to the Rule
The same theory applies to others’ perceptions of us. We are the email.
Looking at the way we operate, we see the things we do through a filter, in the wavy glass of the fun house mirror. When we do things which seem contrary to our character, we have an internal justification. Whether it is a mitigating circumstance which governed our reaction or undisclosed motivation for our choices, we forgive ourselves the inconsistency as justified.
Our observers do not. They see our reactions and choices for what they are: contrary to the character we mean to project. Our exceptions can be seen with much more clarity than our consistency. Over time, those exceptions become the basis of others’ perceptions of us.
Seeing Through the Cracks
Quaint and Mate are often the first to see through the façade. Both know us. They know why we are behaving the way we are. Sometimes, we do not know until one of them points it out.
They see what we do as uncharacteristic. When they shine the Q-beam on the inconsistency, it is often our first clear view into the mirror. What we thought we were projecting is not what is on display for judgment. Quaint and Mate want to spare us the judgment of outsiders, but we have to listen to the clearer perception to modify our behavior.
Quaint knows me better…
…than I know myself. Why?
Unlike the concept of One cannot be loved when one does not love oneself, it is possible for Quaint (and Mate) to know you better than you know yourself. The simple solution is Quaint and Mate are not looking through your filter or in the wavy mirror. However, this does not mean they see you the way a perfect stranger or colleague will.
A complete stranger will see you based on your actions without knowing the underlying ideologies which govern them. Stranger knows of you, mostly by reputation. It was built by you and by others. Part of it is your projection, and part is others’ reactions to your deeds and words.
Stranger will not come to you and tell you your actions are inconsistent with the character you project. Unlike Quaint, Stranger has little or no emotional capital invested in you. Where Quaint can see your hidden agenda, Stranger just believes this action defines your character. Stranger justifies the belief by aligning with others who react similarly.
Work With Me
Colleagues present a different perception because their views are not solely based on reaction and reputation. Colleague perceives competence, assuming you got your position based on merit. Is it true?
If you came to your position by nepotism, conniving, manipulation or coercion, chances are good Colleague will find out in short order whether or not you can deliver. Colleague will then assign characteristics to you which will not align with your projection. Frankly, is Colleague wrong?
Just because you do not believe…
…does not make it false. What you see in the fun house mirror may be what you want others to believe. What they do believe is what they see. Just because you cannot see anything but your weird mirror does not mean what they see is not the truth.
Has Mate ever come to you and asked, What were you thinking? Better still, has Mate ever said, I would not have done it that way, but I know why you did.? Mate is standing in the middle ground between your mirror and the view Stranger and Colleague have through the window pane.
Redemption or Reconciliation?
Where do you want to be? The middle ground where Mate stands is a compromise between what you see and what the rest of the world is viewing. This means you have choices.
- Act in a manner consistent with your projection.
- Change your view and admit reality is not in your mirror.
- Adapt to and accept changing both your perception and that of those around you by acting differently than before you began looking.
May I have your card?
Before anyone can see clearly, you have to decide for yourself. What characteristics are you going to exemplify? What is going to be your calling card?
No, this does not mean you only pick out one characteristic. Just like a good business card has the name and title, numbers for telephone and fax, an address, an email and a website, your identity has more than one characteristic. What design do you want it to have?
Do you want it to have the telephone number crossed out four times and scrawled on the back because the face is too cluttered to write another one? This is what happens when we change our fundamental values. This is the outcome of the honest Colleague marrying a loveless Mate to be in a position to head a company.
Is the email inbox full of unread messages? Are you ever going to read them? Or have you deleted the senders but failed to delete the messages? Is the inbox full of spam?
Is the website a .org or a .com? Is the only ambition you own actually a mask for avarice? Or is it one with which you strive to be a better you?
Has the fax number been disconnected? Have you given up on getting more information after having been fed a diet of lies?
Is your address Memory Lane or Future Acres Highway? Or have you moved to Present Happiness Circle?
Is the name so blurry you cannot read it? Does the smudged background make the strange font difficult to read? Maybe, the color is the same as the background, making the name impossible to see?
Did the title change? When it did, did you begin doing the new job or keep doing the old one?
Have you ever looked in the window pane instead of the fun house mirror? What did you see? Would you look at an action in your life the way Stranger would see it… read your email as an editor?