Projecting Perceptions

What self perceptions are you projecting to others?

In an appearance on GMA3, Shannan Monson (opens in a new link) shared insights into how the language we use affects others’ perceptions of us.  Her examples included the phrases “I’m no expert, but…” and “I’m sorry to bother you, but…”

“I’m no expert, but…” denigrates our idea and gives the listener reasons to doubt what we’re about to say. Similarly, “I’m sorry to bother you…” plants in the listener’s mind that they’re being bothered whether they actually felt that way or not.

As I listened to Ms. Monson’s examples I wondered how often we project our perceptions of ourselves to others…and what effect that has on our interactions with others. Here’s a personal example to illustrate my point.

I’m not a huge fan of technology. While I am often amazed at what it can accomplish, I have little appetite for exploring technology advances unless there is a practical application in my daily life. As a result, I often refer to myself as a techno dinosaur.

During a recent zoom conference one of the participants posed a question in the chat box. They asked what a theme was as it relates to websites. I posted a response saying its software that directs the look and feel of a website. One of the techies in attendance posted a comment saying that he was surprised that the answer came from me. 

Later, the consultant who helps me when I run into technical difficulties admonished me to stop labeling myself a techno dinosaur saying “You accomplish more than you give yourself credit for.”

What these two were telling me that is that by labelling myself as a techno dinosaur I give people the wrong impression. Instead of communicating my lack of interest in the latest greatest technology, I give the impression of being technologically inept. The reality is that I create and maintain my own website including use of html code. I’ve learned, through my technology consultant, how to troubleshoot many of the problems that arise on my website. I’ve also received favorable comments about my use of social media.

The question is “What erroneous perceptions are you projecting to others? More importantly, what impact are these perceptions having on your dealings with them?”

Here are a few areas for you to consider.


Does your language project confidence or are you giving others a reason to doubt your ideas and insights? On the flip side of the coin, do you give others the impression that you’re always right? Is your arrogance discouraging others from dealing with you?


Is your confidence evident in the calm with which you approach the most daunting challenges? Or does your language express doubts, fear, anxiety which belie your true level of confidence?


Does your language project how caring you really are? Or is it off-putting? In my youth, I was a very shy kid, consequently I was a quiet kid. It wasn’t until I read Ann Lander’s response to a letter that I realized that I was projecting aloofness, the sense that I was distant and uncaring, when indeed I liked people and cared about them. I just didn’t know how to show it.

For you

Let’s all take a lesson from Ms. Monson’s playbook and pay more attention to the language we’re using. Not only does our language project our perceptions of ourself, it affects the way we behave as you saw in the example of my shy, insecure youth.

A simple way to accomplish this is to, shortly after rising, plant the following thought into your subconscious mind “I’m going to pay attention to others’ reactions to what I say so that I can learn to use more positive, more productive language consistently.” The subconscious mind  is an amazing tool that operates while we go about conscious activities. It’s like a program that runs in the background in a computer. It does the job even though we don’t notice it doing so. 

At the end of the day, shortly before retiring, review what you learned during the day. What you’ll find is that you become more precise in your language and you enjoy greater success. You also find that others are more confident and comfortable in dealing with you because you no longer give them reason to wonder who you really are. It’ll be obvious to them, because you’ve become more aware of who you are and your actions are consistent with your words.

For our kids

As you observe the kids in your life using self-denigrating, self-limiting language, ask them “Is that how you really feel?” If it isn’t, they’ll relate what they really feel. Then ask them “Why are you giving a false perception of yourself?”

If the self-denigrating, self-limiting language is what they are really feeling, ask them “What makes you say that?” After you listen to their explanation (without interruption), ask them “Aren’t you able to [examples]? Then can you legitimately say that [self-denigrating language]? And how do you think others will react when you project an erroneous perceptions of yourself?”

It’s just as important that you live this message…paying attention each day to the language you use, refining it to give accurate perceptions that make it easier for others in their dealings with you. And making your efforts more productive in the process. Kids pay more attention to what we do than what we say.

Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your thoughts in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link). 

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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2 Responses

  1. Bill Prenatt

    Hi Dale, Totally in synch with your comments about perceptions becoming reality. Since we become what we think about, we tend to create our own perception of ourselves.

    My Mother taught me that if you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all 🙂

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