December 10, 2006

Perceptions

I don't know if it is the darkness outside, or just now finally 'feeling' home again or whatever, but there is too much going on in my head at the moment. Well, the previous post probably made that clear as well.

I have started thinking a lot about perceptions. How people perceive others and which consequences that could have on a further relationship (in whatever form) with those people.

For instance, I don't think this blog is a very accurate reflection of who I am. Maybe that also isn't what I want it to be but some people reading this - and who don't know me in real life - will have quite a different idea of what I'm like than the reality of me. Clearly, the on-line machiruda is only part of me and that is fine. (Come to think of it, Ianqui had an interesting post on this last week or so.)

But, it also applies to me in real life. Of course, you don't really get to know someone after only that first impression but it has struck me lately how far off people seem to be. Or rather, how little people think outside of the boxes in their head and have one set image with what I look like and what I do. And by extension, how I always seem to surprise people by what I do.

The most concrete example of this that I can think of is that most people who meet me in a work-environment (or sometimes even elsewhere) are usually shocked when I order a beer or glass of wine at a social work thing. It isn't as if they are surprised to see me drunk (which they don't see), they are surprised to see me drink one single glass of alcohol. Why is this? I thought it is more uncommon for people not to drink so why the surprise that I actually do? Imagine the surprise of (and ensuing stories by) my colleagues in Baikonur when they actually saw me outside of the office as well. I.e. having a life, dancing, drinking & flirting in the local disco.

On one hand, I don't mind, because hey, half of these people don't need to know me.

But on the other hand it can be frustrating too. Because what if this is part of the reason why I'm not able to get past the interviewing stage (or letter-stage even!) of jobhunting? Clearly they shouldn't select on if someone looks like they can hold their liquor or not. But what if I look too serious, too conservative? I don't particularly want to change the way I look, because that would probably make me look much too unnatural. But still.

One of my 'tasks' for this week was to find out from friends how they see me to find out how different (if at all) that is to how I see myself. And maybe it will give me a whole new idea of me and of what I want and can do. Well, I've seen a few friends over the weekend but this hasn't come up. I'll do better next time I see people :)

Of course, first impressions are important. This is what we all (subconsciously) base a lot of desicions and ideas on about the people we interact with. And that is fine, as long as this impression doesn't determine everything else that follows with that interaction. Sometimes it just feels that that crucial first impression that I seem to give off is just miles apart from whatever else I have to offer - and it negatively influences what comes next.

Do you feel you match the impression that you give to people? Or if we limit the question to online vs offline persona's, do you think they match in your case? I'd be interested to hear what others think.

4 comments:

Jules said...

My boss (the psycho one, of the job I just resigned from) had this image of me as someone who wasn't very emotional and who could be rather cold. This is because at the interview, I had to do a psych profile which said that I don't show my emotions easily (true, I am selective in who I show my emotions to).

And so I would get lectures from her about how when I go on business trips to the country offices, I had to be more "engaging" with staff there, talk to them, show interest in them, blah blah blah. Funnily enough, I was always really talkative and engaging when I went to visit the other offices, and a number of the country managers rang her to tell her how pleasant I was and how interested I was in the staff.

I think that kind of pissed her off, since she found me very hard to read (mainly because I didn't trust her, so of course I wasn't going to show her what I was really thinking or feeling).

Re: Your interviews. Aside from the usual stuff that they select on (ie, can you do the job? do you have the skills and experience for this role?), one of the harder things to assess on is "do you fit with the company's culture?" - this is the X Factor of the interview with your personality. The way to deal with this: find out what the company says its values are (usually they have them on the webpage) and spend time in the interview talking about how aligned your values are with the company's and how you want to work for a company that has similar values to you. Eg, if a company says that they value ambition and innovation, find ways to talk about how you are ambitious and something innovative you have done.

Cookie time said...

People paint a picture of someone by the first impression they get. Often that is not who you are 100%.

I know I come across really self assured (sp), strong and confident and not afraid of anything, when in fact I'm rather insecure and care too much about what others think (well not all of the time ofcourse, but you get the picture). Therefore people think I can cope with just about anything.

I think it takes time and effort to really get to know someone. As for your co workers, you should ask yourself how important it is that they truly know who you are. Isn't it more important that your friends know the real you? And on that note, it is partly up to you as well to let people meet the real you.

And yes looks can be deciving, but you are who you are and in my humble opinion, you are fine the way you are! (and that is not to flatter you!)

As for the jobs, I think you just want to have an explanation for why you haven't gotten your dream job yet. I doubt if it has anything to do with who you are. I think this is just a case of bad luck and not so perfect timing (yet!)

Try to not let it get you down too much sweetie. Here if you need me. x

fenneke said...

Jules has a good point about job interviews!

As for experiences of how people mis'read' my appearance: almost everyone who doesn't know me that well thinks I'm a vegetarian, straight, and younger than my sister, all of which is quite the opposite :-s

machiruda said...

Yes, I think everyone is perceived differently in first instance than what they are really like.

The comment about my colleagues was just as an example. I don't really care what they think about me, if I would then I'd try harder to get to know them. But it was the clearest situation in which that first impression is so so different from me. But admittedly, I am not giving them a lot of opportunities to see beyond that...

Jules, good suggestion on the interviews, I'll try to keep that in mind next time.