The Impact of Perception on Interpersonal Communication
Your small business may have strategies, goals, methods, policies and procedures, but without effective communication none of those aspects of your business will work. Your communications can go awry if someone's perceptions interfere with what you are trying to convey. However, if you understand the power of perception, you can learn to influence it so that your listener or reader welcomes your messages and understands them.
A weary or impatient customer service representative can create the impression that customers are a nuisance. Once a customer develops this perception, no amount of problem solving will change the customer's view. Attempts to satisfy the customer will look like reluctant attempts. You must train customer service employees to present a pleasant, willing and welcoming attitude. Once a positive perception is in place, customer service efforts will receive a positive response.
When one employee makes assumptions about another employee based on stereotypes, communication can be misunderstood. For example, if an older worker has a younger boss, each may assume the other has a negative view of the situation. When you recognize potential perception problems based on age, race, gender, religion or lifestyle, you can break through the perception barriers by asking the people involved to air their concerns. Once the ice breaks, each party has the opportunity to let the other know what they are really like.
Some employees bring perceptions to the workplace based on low self-esteem. They may perceive put-downs when you praise them. They may take positive comments as sarcasm. Your antidote to this type of perception is repetition. Repeat your message in as many ways as possible until the person with the self-fulfilling prophesy has no choice but to face reality.
Dress codes in an office can help overcome value judgments people make based on attire. However, the maintenance worker and the executive will still have perceptions about each other that may not be true, and those perceptions may be based on appearance alone. The man in the suit is usually looked up to, and the man in the dungarees is often considered to be of lower value. These perceptions can color communication so that one or both parties assume that one of them is superior. Your message must be load and clear: you have hired each person at your company because they are valuable. All contribute. All belong.
One school of thought on marketing suggests that forming relationships with customers is more important than merely selling them products and services. A relationship can result in loyalty and repeat sales. To achieve this, you must foster the perception that you listen to your customers' issues and concerns. In return, your customers will be more likely to listen to the solutions you offer. You achieve this perception by listening more than you speak, asking follow-up questions, offering solutions and engaging in conversations where you don't always make a sales pitch.