Self Perception – The Masks We Wear
As we travel through our personal and professional lives, we often demonstrate different behaviours to match different situations. These behaviours allow us to adapt, interrelate and in some cases protect ourselves.
These behaviours can be conscious or subconscious, deliberate or accidental, either way we could look at them as a form of mask. These masks can change the way people perceive us, and therefore the way they interact, or not. To clarify sit down with a pen and paper and write down ten words that you think describe you. Look at these words and ask yourself if they are honest and true. Don’t worry if not, the next bit will open things up!
Now write down ten words that illustrate the way other people would describe you. Compare the two sets of words and look for any parity.
Finally write down a list of ten words that you would like people to use when describing you. Compare the three sets of words, especially the first and third. What do you observe in the differences? Can you identify any of your key strengths or weaknesses? Are there any surprises, good or bad and what actions can you take to either move yourself away from the bad perceptions and more towards to the good ones?
When I deliver coaching, this exercise is very valuable and is gives a very clear insight into how we see ourselves, how we think other people view us and how we would like to be viewed. With conflict situations and conflict resolution I ask the client to list ten words that best describe them when they are under pressure, I also bring along ten words that have been used to describe the client, in a 360 kind of way. Again parity is looked for and reasons why these things happen.
This exercise works well with the Johari Window model, around how we manage our public face and how we keep control on those things we need to keep hidden, and that we are blind to. Additional value can be found from this exercise, if it is used in an appraisal or performance review, as well as any corrective or developmental coaching and mentoring.
By spending time just writing down these observational words, we can identify the masks we wear and how our behaviour changes with each one.