How Do People See You and Does it Matter?

The Interaction Attraction

If you’re like me, then every day you interact with other people. Maybe a few, maybe a lot. Your interaction may or may not involve speaking but it will always involve a degree of connection and communication. It might be with friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, passers-by or total strangers. It could be a one-time thing, an occasional thing or an all-the-time thing. It might be intentional, strategic and conscious interaction or it could be spontaneous, organic and incidental. It might be significant or perhaps even life-changing but more often than not, it will be closer to the forgettable and inconsequential end of the scale.

No matter the situation, circumstance or intention, the people with whom you interact will always form an opinion of you. As you will of them. It’s what we humans do. Mostly, these assessments won’t be a highly judgmental, analytical or critical process (as such) but rather, a natural byproduct of simply connecting and interacting with another human being.

Consciously or not, intentionally or not, you and I are always assessing and evaluating the people around us. It’s an important and instinctive part of (1) how we connect and (2) our survival strategy. Is she lying? Can I trust him? Can I leave my children with her? Is this a person I want to form a friendship with? Go into business with? Listen to? Rely on? Allow in my car? My home? Invest time and energy in? Give a job to? Is this Craig Harper bloke full or crap or is he worth listening to?

And so on.

First Impressions

In life, we know that what we see (at first) is not always what we get (over the long term). Things are not always as they seem but nonetheless, assessments are made for better or worse. Like it or not, people are always evaluating you on some level. Forming an opinion. As they are of me. Having a public profile means that I’m always being evaluated and labeled. Most days I receive at least one “you’re an idiot” email. Such is life. Of course, we don’t like being evaluated but not liking it doesn’t change the reality of it. In some ways, how people perceive us doesn’t matter.

But in others, it does.

It’s all well and good to say “I’ll be me and if people don’t like the way I am then they can all get….” but that’s not only a poor strategy, it’s also ignorant, arrogant and naïve on a practical level. If you never care about what people think of you then you’re a fool. In business, in relationships, in life.

Like it or not, there are times when how people see you matters.

Warning: Now, before anyone misinterprets what I’m saying here (as is often the case), let me be clear about what I’m not saying: having an interest in how other people perceive you is not (on any level) the same as being obsessed with what people think of you. One is about building connection, understanding and awareness, the other is about insecurity and emotional immaturity. One is logical, the other, irrational.

Don’t confuse the two.

Every time I deliver a presentation (like the one I did this afternoon), I am evaluated. Sometimes that evaluation comes in the form of verbal feedback from the client, sometimes it comes in the form of an email but more often that not, my performance is rated quantitatively and qualitatively via feedback sheets filled out by the audience at the end of my gig.

Can you imagine being the specific focus of five hundred people’s judgment?

Naturally, it can be uncomfortable and intimidating but it can also be valuable, enlightening and potentially positive if I allow it to be. If I can put a lid on my insecurity and ego and use the feedback in a constructive and practical way then it can actually improve not only my career, my effectiveness as a presenter and my earning potential but also everything from my personal relationships to my day-to-day level of self-awareness.

Being conscious of how other people perceive you is not to be confused with being self-conscious, insecure or needy. Neither does being aware of how you are perceived by the people around you mean that you need to compromise your beliefs, values or authenticity. No, it’s not about changing who you are but rather changing the way you interact with the world around you.

It’s not about self-loathing or self-compromise, it’s about self-awareness.

An Important Message

For those people who feel compelled to write an “I don’t give a stuff what people think of me” (type) comment in response to this post, I’d suggest that (1) you have entirely missed the point and (2) you might want to re-read the post as someone who wants to learn rather than someone who wants to vent. I don’t often say things like I’m about to on this site but here’s me being totally transparent and authentic with you, my readers – no strategy, just honesty.

I am growing tired of certain people (a minority) who seem to delight in their own negativity and self-indulgence on this site. Don’t get me wrong, I love interaction, feedback and building a positive online community but more and more, there seems to be a certain group who leave comments which have little or nothing to do with the relevant post and rarely add anything of value to the discussion. Please leave comments, please contribute to the topic of the day, please encourage and support the other readers on this site but please don’t turn our comment section into a personal forum or Facebook page.

And before anyone asks, no I’m not grumpy just honestly sharing what’s on my mind.

Peace. :)

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Diana June 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm

So true mr Harper. It would be interesting to be ” followed ” by a cameraman and filmed interacting ( just forgone day…) just to keep in check the way we speak both physically /verbally to others and actually see what messages we send out!
As always your just keeping it real.
Love it .

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Dj June 24, 2012 at 4:34 am

Painfully true!

:-)

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Fi June 21, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Hi everyone

A little about me.,,,

I enjoy being spontaneous, organic and incidental.Love it !!!
I admitt, usuall ywhen I am the above 3ish I am not good at first impressions, as I am usually a little awkward and make a total dick of myself. However I know I will blossom just like my fresh herbs…. A little water and love makes a huge difference to us all.

Giving to others no matter the situation and making time to just stop….is so more rewarding than take take take….

Still some may think I have no self awarenesss, but I actually do and make every day a fresh start. The more they really care, the more they will see the real me.

Fi x

Good for you Craig taking feedback from an audience of 500 and taking the comments as an opportunity to learn not a criticism. a tough gig…

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NIkki June 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm

I don’t envy you being in the public eye and putting your thoughts/knowledge out there for everyone to either Agree with or criticize (depending on how we interperate your post for the day). I for one wouldn’t want to do it because I am at times a little insecure and am even slightly paranoid that I could be one of those minority that may be missing the point…After all, I still have so much to learn.
All I know Is that I enjoy reading your posts and love having the freedom to make comments from time to time (oh alright – often). Sometimes I totally relate and other times it gives me something to think about.
I even put some of your advice into actions (15 minutes of crosswords a day – except maybe only twice a week but I figure that’s better then none)

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chebbieanne June 22, 2012 at 12:26 am

I think it is important to get a feel for how others see you. I find it a challenge sometimes to interact with people just as me without prejudice. People do try to define you according to social status, or residential address, occupation or their preconceived ideas of how you should be because of things like financial status. I interact with people on very diverse levels everyday and I try to act the same with each of them. I can also be naughty and push boundaries just to gauge the reaction of others. If I really annoy people it is usually because I plan it that way. My pet peeve is when I have established rapport with some one and their behaviour changes because they think they have to act differently around me for the reasons mentioned above.
Note to Fi – Said Hi to a hot guy all dressed up in a nice suit today.
He looked very corporate indeed. Very sophisticated and smooth.
You know him well BTW. It was a cold day and not a flannel shirt or trainers in sight. Now if you met him for the first time today I bet you would have had a very different first impression from the guy you picked up at the airport long ago. LOL

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Fi June 22, 2012 at 8:10 am

Your insights to Craigs blogs and responses are amazingly inspiring to many of us readers Chebbieanne. I particularly relate to your comments about peoples behaviour changing when rapport is established, according to social status, or residential address, occupation or their preconceived ideas of how you should be because of things like financial status. I love working and volunteering with the most marginalised groups in our community – so rewarding ;-)
Note: I think I am now finally ready to meet that sophisticated and smooth hot guy in his suit. xx
Have agreat weekend everyone .

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thomas June 22, 2012 at 1:29 am

Interesting post and good on you for standing up for the content of your community. Nobody has the right to say what they want especially in privately owned place (even if it is public) like your own website community that you are building. It would be like accepting someone to come into your gym call everyone fat b****rds, say your training is useless and then abuse you and your staff. Nobody would accept that as freedom of speech and nor should it be accepted online. I think your work is top notch and the best part is you are out there doing it, i may not agree with everything and why does it matter you are one guy sharing years of knowledge and experience in the hope that it does some good what more can we expect from anyone. Keep up the great work.

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V June 22, 2012 at 1:47 am

Being ‘graded’ by 500+ people after a presentation is my idea of a nightmare. You seem to have a very relaxed/unfazed perspective about this topic.

Interested to hear more about this, and how you (or likeminded individuals) manage the balance between caring enough to create awareness – without too much, resulting in anxiety.

Thoughts, anyone? …

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Fi June 22, 2012 at 8:41 am

Great point V – being graded by 500 + people is a tough journey for anyone. One skill I bet Craig draws on, is his ability to de-emotionalise himself from the evaluation process.

The balance between caring and creating awareness without anxiety. I struggle with this but what I worked on for many years myself was my OWN confidence.
And when I understood that my confidence was NOT seen on the clothes I wore or on the amount of make-up I put on my face etc, the anxiety drifted away.

My balance and confidence came from within – firstly to care about myself and naturally and organically care for others.
If we nurture ourselves right, the ‘caring’ comes and gives us all a natural “glow” that everyone immediately notices and connects too.
Great discussion point V. ;-) Fi

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V June 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Fi, thank you. The word de-emotionalise, now there’s a useful tip! You hit the nail on the head re: self confidence and I feel that while I’m still working on it every day (from within) instead of external ‘stuff’…I’ll arrive soon. The goal is to help other women with their self esteem too – because just like having an open mind, and shussshing the internal dialogue – it can be such a relief. Thanks for your response very helpful to see someone with similar challenges learn how to move forward :)

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Fi June 22, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Hey V…… I also have to work on it every day
(from with-in) and am a work in progress. We may never arrive V but each day be proud, you are chipping away and am making a difference.

Good for you V helping other women. Yay I just loved that comment. I am also hoping to help other women with DV and empower them. I worked for the Fed Gov for 23 years and lived and breathed on both sides of the fence…It still is kinda confrontational to me but I know I am a little stronger and feel i should help others. x Fi

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Christa June 22, 2012 at 2:14 am

I have found your posts to be relevant, constructive and practical. They build my own self awareness and open my perspective to how other people see the world. I have thought about this topic and the balance between what other people think of me and not taking it personally – as their perception is based on their ‘stuff’ and whether it is positive or negative I’m not looking for outward validation of who I am…. Your post today reminds me why it is important to be aware of the impact we make and to make sure our words and actions reflect the authentic self. Thank you.

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nancy June 22, 2012 at 3:16 am

<3

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Gail June 22, 2012 at 3:30 am

Craig, you are wickedly awesome and cute. Always appreciate your honesty and insight. Many thanks
Gail

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Anonymous June 22, 2012 at 4:34 am

Well said Craig. Detractors, kill-joys and haters begone!

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Katherine Gordy Levine June 22, 2012 at 5:14 am

One of my other favorite bloggers did a long post on being honest. But also made the point that one should never hurt another. Think those who want to be authentic, also need to remember their manners. I like the AA saying, “Say what you mean, mean what you say, don’t say it mean.” Think how much better the world would be if in being ourselves we all followed that dictum.

Stay strong. Here is the link to James Altucher’s post.

http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/10/7-things-happen-to-you-when-you-are-completely-honest/

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V June 22, 2012 at 4:22 pm

‘Think those who want to be authentic, also need to remember their manners’ love. love. love.

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Trolley Wife June 25, 2012 at 11:17 am

Good one love this “Say what you mean, mean what you say, don’t say it mean.”

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Giulia June 22, 2012 at 6:18 am

Luv ur work!! :-)

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Virginia June 22, 2012 at 6:24 am

Too much caffeine or not enough sugar Mr. Harper?!!! Lol!

Just kidding mate, u rock; well said!
:-) p.s Go for a run grumpy! Lol. JUST KIDDING!

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Margaret June 22, 2012 at 6:56 am

Craig,
I can honestly say that this is one of best topics I have read on your website. I “thought” that not caring what other people think is the way to live and communicate. My opinion now is that this is the easy way out. Your article effectively portrays the reasons why it is important to consider the impression one has on others and also to be aware of how one’s actions may also be perceived by others. This has been extremely enlightening for me. Thank you so much!!!

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KTB June 22, 2012 at 7:07 am

Thanks Craig, good post today. Thank you for articulating so well the difference between caring how people percieve us and caring what people think of us, that is a great distinction.

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Deb deb June 22, 2012 at 7:43 am

Great post today Craigo. X

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Nicole June 22, 2012 at 7:47 am

Hi Craig,
Firstly, let me say I love your articles. Secondly, those people you speak of leaving negative comments …. it is clear they have a lot of insecurities they need to be working on.
You were one of my lecturer’s for the Cert IV I did online through AFA and ever since hearing you speak about motivation I’ve aspired to be just like you with your motivation and positive outlook on life.
This article on how do people see you has made me actually feel a lot better about myself in the sense that I ALWAYS worry about what people think of me. I’ve been like it my whole life and some have said I worry too much. But I now realise no, I don’t worry too much, I actually just care how people see me.
I’m trying to get an outdoor group training business of the ground and it can be really tough to constantly try and be everyone’s positive and being left second guessing if my upbeat, positive attitude actually annoy people or if it helps them to also be positive. Again, here I am wondering what people think.
Thanks for the post Craig.
Nicole

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Time4me June 22, 2012 at 8:23 am

Craig

A question – how do YOU get over the stage of being instantly defensive on not so nice feedback and allow your self to be open to grow from it. I find that trove personally a challenge to me and would love to know your thoughts

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Sarah F June 22, 2012 at 8:33 am

Feedback is a gift. If no one ever gave you feedback you could go through life being a twat and you’d never even know :) As part of my job I get feedback from groups regularly, it was very uncomfortable at first and upsetting a few times, but, like anything you get used to it and now I use this great tool in my personal life as well.

Thanks for a great blog.

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Christine June 22, 2012 at 8:36 am

It’s true. I “judge” all the time. Your first sight/view of a person, you “see” closed, unhappy, “I-don’t-see-you” people. I usually figure they lived in a city where eye contact and a smile was dangerous….been to NY and lived in NJ. I am out West now and saying “hi,” “good morning,” “how are you,” is a usual state of affairs….actually offended when someone doesn’t smile back. Anyway the point of mindfulness is to be in the moment and just a lot of time people aren’t there with you.

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Nicki June 22, 2012 at 8:47 am

Craig, I totally get everything you said – including the footnote.
Margaret (above) has ‘nailed it’ when she said (I quote)

“it is important to consider the impression one has on others and also to be aware of how one’s actions may also be perceived by others”.

It is very simple and takes only 3 things… awareness, awareness, awareness. Sadly, most people walk around in life in a ‘waking sleep’ and have not reached that stage of consciousness where they can take responsibility for their own thoughts, actions and reactions, and can only learn when the universe throws them some extremely ‘hard lessons’ that cause lots of pain and suffering for them. They need to practice ‘self-observation’ such as listening and watching themselves interacting with others – they may get a big shock when they see and hear themselves!

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Missbkcol June 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Liked what you said Nicki.

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Nicki June 23, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Thanks Missbkcol, much appreciated. I think that there is great value in the comments that everyone leaves here … knowing that there are others out there that use the gift of ‘right thinking’ connects us all. We are both pupils and teachers of each other… forget about the ‘sleepwalkers’ – they will only wake up when they are ready (if at all).

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melissa June 22, 2012 at 8:57 am

One of your best yet, Craig Harper.

I love that these people (the minority) that give you shit still read your blog. Hmmm, I wonder who the bigger idiot is?!

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Suu June 22, 2012 at 9:00 am

Happy Friday everyone :)
I find out through feedback (being told point blank) that a person doesn’t like the way that I am and wonder what the heck I’m doing ‘wrong’.
Everyone wants to be liked I’d imagine, so I don’t envy a person in your position that deliberately hands out questionnaires to find out! Do you change to suit the feedback if it’s negative? If so, how would a person go about it?
This has given me more to think about than usual.
I’ve noticed that no-one else has asked this question so I’m going to – Am I one of the minority who delights in negativity :P
Thanks once again for a post that makes me think about behaviour and consequence.
Suu xxoo

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Cathie Lacey June 22, 2012 at 9:13 am

You rock Craig Harper! Luv reading this stuff & what you put out for discussion on a general basis. On a personal note, I am discovering that people think very differently of me than I think of myself – in a very positive way – I see an overweight, constantly trying to achieve my goal toI STAY on my healthy path & consistently failing miserably and thinks that shows in how I look and others see a very capable and pulled together person who is excellent at what they do and never gives up! Ha ha ha – What you see is not always what you get :)

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Goulb Dag June 22, 2012 at 10:21 am

There are a couple of circles that most of us move in. Professional and personal.
Professionally, I believe we have a ‘brand’, the people we work with know what they are going to get when they interact with us. That ‘brand’ is established on first impressions and is built through each interaction. Professionally, it is important how people see you, how they rate you. The good news is that we have the opportunity to develop our ‘brand ‘ with each interaction. It is something that I am aware of and something that I want my staff to be aware of. AND first impressions count. Attitude counts. What does your brand say about you? When we go to McDonalds, we know what we are going to get, we know the brand….. Professionally, we need to get feedback on our ‘brand’ what we do with that feedback is the important thing.

Personally, we carry a different brand. I dress differently for starters, but the people near and dear to me … their opinion carries the most weight if a change needs to be made.
We all change and develop, not always for good. Its blokes like Harps that suggest we make changes for the better.

Always interesting Harps. Cheers

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Goulb Dag June 22, 2012 at 10:52 am

Just an additional thought …. when my wife and I were in Paris last year (isn’t that a great line to be able to use!!!). We genuinely didn’t care what people thought of us …. and that let us dance on a bridge to a busker playing his piano accordian late one evening …. some of the greatest moments come from dancing like no-one is watching, and not caring what other people think.

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Kate June 22, 2012 at 10:26 am

Thanks for the thought-provoking post! It’s another one of those topics that we all think about, but don’t discuss very often.
Also, good on you for directing the tone of comments!

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Evan June 22, 2012 at 10:42 am

Craig, I respectfully submit that the difference in seeking ” building connection, understanding and awareness” is not about logic. It is about our emotional needs. It is about feeling ok enough in ourselves that we can welcome the other. I know that this is probably what you were saying but talking about ‘logic’ gets in the way I think

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Theresa June 22, 2012 at 11:31 am

Hi Craig,

From what little interaction we have (via email):
1. I really like you;
2. You have had a positive effect on my life;
3. I may not always agree with your subjective opinions/beliefs but I aspire to your objective thought processes and methodical logic;
4. The world is a better place with people like you who can have an honest debate without throwing any emotion in the mix;

Your posts are mostly inspiring and insightful.

Thank you :)

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Trolley Wife June 22, 2012 at 11:39 am

Another interesting topic from the Harperdome.

I am sure I have said a little bit of “I’ll be me and if people don’t like the way I am then they can all get….” at some point in my life (quite a while ago when in 20′s instead of 40′s). I care about how I treat people and feel, for the most part, easily liked/loved by the majority of people I interact with. I care HUGELY about what my husband, kids. besty friends, bosses and colleagues I admire think of me.
Only recently some self awareness hit me that I can be too direct sometimes and that a comment I might make about someones activities for example, is interpreted as me being negative, when I thought I was joking about a difference of opinion we had. There was not one bit of attention to offend but I had.

Luckily for me though, the unnecessarily rude and public carry on response I received, made me realise that maybe I did not give a hoot what that particular person thought anyway. I will though be more aware and will be careful in future, as would hate to hurt a nice person’s feelings.

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Missbkcol June 22, 2012 at 5:28 pm

This post made me think long and hard about my level of self-awareness, plus the way I conduct myself and the way it may impact upon those I interact with. Loved reading all the different responses. Thank you, as always. :-)

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Lindsay June 23, 2012 at 5:19 pm

A lesson I’m currently struggling with. Sigh.

So, I’ve basically been an open wound for about 2 years now. I have good reason, but really should learn to deal with what’s been dealt. Anyhow, the thing that hurts the most is when people abandon me. I’m straight forward, tend to shoot from the hip and have strong opinions. Now, that doesn’t mean I run roughshod over everyone (I am polite and kind, but when asked, give my honest answer), but my strong opinions and unwillingness to sugar coat things seems to give the wrong impression. I try to limit my interactions with people because of the inevitable abandonment.

All this has me reevaluating my social ills. I really need to figure out what I’m doing wrong. I don’t feel that everyone should just suck it up, but I do feel it’s unfair that I’m expected to and no one else is willing to. I limit my strongest opinions to those closest to me but tend to vent minor frustrations with anyone. I mostly keep things neutral and light hearted though. I think the minor frustration venting is not really a big thing, I think it’s allowing people to see the big stuff too soon. 6 months into a friendship, I disclose what I’m currently going through. Soon after, they run. Having never had a long term friendship, I’m dumb when it comes to knowing when to let loose. Though I am very aware of the need for positive and negative reinforcement, it seems I can’t recognize it until it’s too late.

What I’m saying is, I want to be able to interpret the interaction of others better so that I’m not constantly losing friends. I’m always accused of expecting people to just put up with me, but no one even considers that that is just something I’m completely dumb about. I really don’t see what I’m doing wrong until it’s been done. I wish I could figure this out already. I’m 34 for jebus sake!

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Michael June 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm

I can’t say too much as it may detract, but sometimes Lindsay, you can do anything to please another and they will run. I can relate to an extent to what you are saying but again don’t be fooled by the thought that if I am X I will be liked by all or some. As Craig says in this post feedback from anyone can be good and we can evaluate it and decide to change or not but if it is not constructive well, maybe disregard. Also, don’t disclose too much about self, but I will stop there as I don’t see this thread as advice, but again re-read as I have Craig’s comments, evaluation is a good thing but if X thinks negative about you, to use a horrible cliche I hate, let go and move on and take the lesson out of it.

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Kerrie June 24, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I continue to marvel at the synchronicity of my life’s lessons and this post was particularly relevant. Last week I asked for feedback from a client as the order for my products was considerably lower than any in my history with them. I knew in my heart what the problem was going to be but hearing it has given me the shake. up I needed. I liked your comment on “putting a lid on my insecurities and ego” because as a highly creative person that’s exactly what I continually (and at times not easily) need to do.
Love your posts, keep them coming

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Christie June 28, 2012 at 8:42 am

Lovely and simply truthfully!
…But 1 question please: how then do we work to improve our relationships/connections, thus the way people perceive us especially on a first meeting like say in an interview…?
If opportuned to know, what next please?
Christie, Glasgow, UK

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