The other day I overheard some young people talking. A fresh graduate from high school was posing this question to his peers.
Is it illegal to wear a ski mask into a bank to conduct business?
Obviously, I would not suggest trying this to find out. The brief snippet of this conversation I overheard started me thinking about how important it is to understand others’ perception. If you walk into a bank wearing a ski mask, your intentions are far less important than others’ perceptions of your intentions.
When I’m on a bus or subway, I like looking around and trying to see how much I can tell about the fellow passengers just by looking at them. It is a simple way I try to keep myself in practice of noticing small details about people.
But just as important is the ability to understand how you are being perceived by others. We often plow ahead with our ideas without any thought as to how others perceive our actions and attitudes.
Here are some things to ask yourself after interactions with others:
- What did the person hear? What you said and what they heard may be very different things. Based on what you know about the person, which parts of your conversation would they be likely to remember? If they were to immediately summarize your conversation with someone else, what are likely to be the main points they remember?
- Did they feel threatened? If you challenge the status quo, don’t assume that others will focus on the value of your ideas. Entrenched stakeholders are often threatened by new ideas. This is especially true if you are dealing with people, who over many years, have molded their jobs into positions that require very little real work.
- How do they perceive your authority? Misreading this piece of information can cause all kinds of roadblocks.
Originally published August 29, 2007.
Graham Lutz, The Young Capitalist says
This is a good tip for me. I tend to be “overbearing” I’m told. I am just trying to let people know something they apparently don’t already know. but I’ll need to think about their perception of what I am doing first, huh?
Mark Shead says
@Graham – Just keep in mind that what you actually do or say is much less important than what they perceive. This is particularly difficult for me to practice because I tend to see the world in absolute terms. It is difficult for me to get use to the idea that when I explain something, the person I’m talking to may not really listen to what I’m saying. I’ve been able to become much more effective by focusing less on what I’m saying and more on what the other person is hearing.
“When I’m on a bus or subway, I like looking around and trying to see how much I can tell about the fellow passengers just by looking at them. It is a simple way I try to keep myself in practice of noticing small details about people.”
I’m going to try this next time I’m out :) It reminds me of House and how his ability to notice the small subtle details allows to read so much about a person.
Disregard the legal context, to conduct business in a bank, our real identity must be presented. Using a mask to cheer up workers there first then take it off, that could be a good approach for fun, yet maintain business norm and sincerety. So, wearing mask itself is legal, but insisting wearing mask throughout all the process can only construe illegal elements.
Have fun, but don’t overdo, :)
Youtube video from “Chaser’s War on Everything” about wearing a stocking into a store:
really highlights this idea very well!