The Value of Perception

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Posted At: October 5, 2012 8:53 A.M.
by Leighton Brown

Courtesy of Laura Lewis
What is perception? Can it affect your internal work environment? According to Merriam Webster dictionary, “perception is the process of registering sensory stimuli as a meaningful experience. It is more subject to the influence of learning.”

Every day we see, touch and hear things in our environment. These various senses help us to react and interact with the people and situations around us. However, while that is a basic definition of how perception generally works, there is a greater and more intimate example of how this is applied to our daily lives and what this can mean for our ultimate success.

According to Richard Morcarski, a doctoral student in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama, “Perception is not as free as we assume. We are heavily influenced by how we were raised and our past experiences influence how we think.”

In an article on perception, Arden Associates President Mary Dawne Arden wrote, “We perceive based on who we are, we are the product of every experience we have had since we were born.” Based on our own individual upbringings, we all perceive the same things differently.

How do Arden’s and Morcarski’s definitions of perception relate to a corporate working environment? Since we all perceive things differently, does that mean we are doomed for corporate war within the walls of our office buildings? How do you best work with a variety of people who naturally perceive things differently because not everyone was brought up in the same way?

According to Donald K. Egle, ABC, APR, senior director of communications and university spokesperson at James Madison University, “perception is actually misperception. In order to properly perceive something you need all the information from various stages. It goes beyond what you grew up knowing.”

So, your impression of a certain tradition while growing up may actually be a misperception because you’re not gathering all the information available to you. This can easily relate to business in the PR world.

PR practitioners must fully understand perception and misperception. Perception does matter; it is extremely important to the overall success of a company’s business environment. PR becomes important to perception because the audience is often misperceiving the company for various reasons.

Egle says the best way to profoundly change a misperceived image or reputation is to start from the inside out. We have to recognize what’s going on internally before we can change how others perceive us externally.

What Egle says about internal issues confirms Mocarski’s point about perception being something that is learned over time and is heavily influenced by how someone was raised.

For example, let’s look at internal diversity within a company. More times than not, there are going to be people whose personalities clash with others’ personalities. This conflict could exist for a variety of different reasons. The involved parties could be different races, have different socioeconomic backgrounds, and have different beliefs or standards. This diversity in perspective has the potential to have an impact on how each employee performs, which then leads to how your company as a whole performs.

Recognizing differences in perception is important to the success of your entire company. You have to find a common ground for people to put their diverse perceptions aside in order to effectively work together. Playing to each of these differences will strengthen your corporation and it will more likely appear unified on the outside.

In the PR world, we cannot be single-minded. It is our responsibility to recognize the diverse amount of people, ideas and solutions around us. By embracing this diversity, we contribute to the overall goal of ensuring that our businesses and corporations have a strong, positive perception in the pubic eye.

As Egle would say, “If you make good and strong decisions for the right reasons good perception will fall into place.”

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