Perceptual Psychology! How’s that for a couple of fifty-cent words?

GLooking Glassrowing up in small town East Texas we used to speak sarcastically of people who used what we called “fifty cent words” in order to show off their education and uppityness, especially when the same thing could have just as easily been said more simply.

This idea of Perceptual Psychology is not a new science or philosophy. In fact, King Solomon wrote about it in Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he”. If you are not familiar with King Solomon, that quote comes from the Bible, and was written some six to seven hundred years before Christ. Then there are the words of the central figure of the Bible, Jesus of Nazareth, who said “The truth will set you free”. That was written over two thousand years ago.

In 1902 James Allen published his book As a Man Thinketh, filled with such statements as “A man is limited only by the thoughts he chooses.”

There is also Zig Ziglar, the speaker and writer who had the greatest influence on me in my early career, who said, “You are who you are and where you are because of the things that have gone into your mind. And you can change who you are and where you are simply by changing what goes into your mind.” I can certainly attest to the truth of this statement, because it was Zig Ziglar who taught me how to challenge my thoughts, belief systems, self-perceptions, and personal paradigms. He taught me to drill down to explore what I had come to believe to be the “truth”, and to find truth that would set me free.

These truths, stated a bit more simply:

“People learn to believe what they hear themselves say”.

From a leadership perspective (whether you are leading as a parent, supervisor, or organizational executive) it is important to understand a core truth about people. They come to you only with the potential for capability, not with all the capabilities themselves. They come to you with a certain set of beliefs about themselves and their own capabilities, beliefs that have been shaped by their various experiences, backgrounds, and by what they have been saying to themselves for years. Some of those beliefs are accurate and some are not.

My question for you is, “What difference would it make if your job of developing capable people was as simple as helping people see themselves differently than they do today?”  What if the manager’s job was as simple as helping people say the things out loud or to themselves that you know they need to hear themselves say? If doing so could make a significant difference in their engagement and performance, how would you approach your job differently than you do today?

It is not as difficult as you may think, but it does require a shift in the way you may see yourself, your role and your people.  And it will definitely require commitment and practice. Helping leaders make these subtle shifts is just one aspect of what I do as an executive coach.  The results of leaders making a few small changes are nothing short of incredible.

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