In a recent post (I’m in a Box and I Can’t Get Out!) I described how everyone who works in an organization is in a box, the box of perceptions that others hold of us. Sometimes those boxes are favorable and we want to preserve them. At other times we are actually surprised by the box we find ourselves in, because our heart and intentions have been so different than how we are being perceived. Then there are times we are in a box because of mistakes we have made that we simply can’t seem to recover from. It’s these latter boxes we want so desperately get out of.
In order to get out of these negative boxes I suggested that there are a few psychological truths that you must first come to grips with. The first of which I discussed in the previous post:
“If you are in a box, you don’t get out until they let you out.”
As fair or unfair as this may seem, it is a reality. But, thankfully, it is a reality you can change. In my earlier post we discussed several options that may be helpful, from changing jobs or managers, to changing behaviors and waiting it out until people change their perceptions of you. Some of you are saying, “I don’t want to change jobs, and I don’t have time to wait this out. Help me out here. I mean, some of these perceptions are career killers.”
To answer your obvious question, yes there is a way to accelerate the process, but there are a couple of more psychological truths you will have to wrestle with to make that happen. And believe me, it requires some “wrestling”, and it takes time, persistence, consistency and patience. This is also where working with an Executive Coach can be incredibly helpful. So let’s get started.
The next psychological truth you will need to grasp is:
“People buy with their emotions and justify with facts.”
As a business professional, you know the truth of this statement as it relates to marketing. Every consumer product company in the world spends billions of dollars annually appealing to your emotions to sway you to justify the purchase of their product. They are pretty good at it too. All of us have made purchases of things we didn’t need and some of which we really couldn’t afford, all because of our emotions. That is one of the reasons that Americans are in debt up to their hairline and aren’t saving anything for retirement.
I know, you’re asking what this has to do with me getting out of this box. It has everything to do with it.
The reason you are in the box you are in is because of the emotions people have attached to you. If people see you as a prickly, volatile person, they will look for the facts or behaviors that confirm their emotions and perceptions of you. The strength of the emotion they attach to their perceptions will determine whether they are open to adjusting their view based on any positive behaviors you may exhibit, or whether they simply discount those behaviors in order to leave you in their box. Unfortunately, leaving you in the box is so much easier and more convenient for those who hold these perceptions. It is easier for people to confirm what they already think than it is for them to change their mind. And changing their mind is a significant challenge, but not impossible.
I know you are saying, “Tony, this is all well and good, but I am not out of my box yet?” Before you can work your way out of the box there is are one or two more psychological truths that you will have to accept and wrestle with. Only then can you begin building a strategy for getting out. And those psychological truths are topics for another post.