Ever stepped out thinking you’re looking good only to be told that your shirt, tie or haircut really, really isn’t? An external perspective can be quite different from your own. With fashion, you can heed advice or go your own way, but reputation is a different matter. It’s a fragile thing and it rest entirely on the opinion of others.
Your reputation is what it is and not what you think it is. The same disparity exists in negotiation – many people completely misjudge how they are perceived during negotiations. When I began this post, I was going to consider the fine line between tough negotiators and difficult ones. However, wherever that fine line may be, I quickly discovered that a lot of us are a long way away from it.
There’s a balance we’re all striving to find – whether in reputation or negotiation, work life or social life – between being pushy and being a pushover. We’re looking for a confident assertiveness. The reality is, according to this study by Columbia Business School, that our perception of our assertiveness is often wildly disconnected with what others experience.
This disconnect manifests itself in two ways. Firstly and most obviously, there are those who feel that they pitch themselves just right. These are the overbearing, difficult (impossible?) negotiators and the complete wet blankets who all think that they’re being firm, fair and tough when in reality there a long way off in one direction or another.
Secondly, more surprisingly, many of those who are getting negotiation right mistakenly think they’re getting things wrong. Those who feel they’re too pushy or too soft and don’t realise that their peers perceive them as being spot-on. More often than not, these people feel they’re being too hard or overly assertive.
How do we solve this disparity? We’ve seen that it’s how you’re perceived that matters, not what you think, but how do you bring your own perceptions more in line with reality in order to make any changes (if necessary)? The ultimate solution is to develop our self-awareness. Easier said than done, but brain plasticity makes this distinctly possible at any age and recognising the need is by far the most significant step.
The first step is the most important, especially as there is no final step. You can only keep developing. This is a good thing. However, all the time you are learning how you come across and adapting as necessary be sure to enlist your trusted contacts to help you out. You’ll become more self-aware with time, but in the views of trusted friends you have an instant assessment of yourself.
Your reputation is everything and your manner can make or break deals without you even realising. Bravery and stupidity is another fine line. Trying to carry off the dodgy shirt and tie combo could be called bravery. Going about your business in an unpleasantly forceful or overly meek way without even realising it crosses over the line onto the stupid side. Work on your self-awareness, understand how you come across, and if in doubt ask a friend.