Why No One Understands You (And What To Do About It)


David Burkus, Contributor

July 15, 2015

Whether you’re an individual contributor or a senior leader, everyone has a hard time understanding you. And in my interview with Heidi, we discuss how that’s undermining your effectiveness.

According to Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of the new book No One Understands You and What To Do About It, there’s two things you can say about personal perception. They’re completely opposite but they’re both true. “First, it’s amazing how right we can be about people.” This is the lesson Malcolm Gladwell explores in Blink. “But the other thing you can say is that it’s remarkably wrong despite having opposite information about people,” said Halvorson. Taken together, this means that people may or may not have received you as intended and that would may never know how you came across during an interaction with someone.

According to Halvorson, a social psychologist by training and Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia Business School, the reason for this is that we are “cognitive misers.” Our brains learned early on in their development to maximize the efficiency of processing information by filtering a lot of it out, and using stereotypes and other biases to save on cognitive load. “We just simply can not think deeply about everything. We don’t have time,” said Halvorson. “To think very, very deeply about every single person you encounter and every one of their behaviors and everything they say is just simply not realistic.” So instead, we take short cuts and use heuristics.

The implications for leaders is that most of the people they interact are content to just get the “gist” of them, and they can sometimes get it very wrong. “What you can do – what is in your control – is to try to be very deliberate about the signals that you send in the first place. So that when they do get the gist of you, the gist will be fairly accurate.

Listen to the whole interview below to learn more about the biases that affect all of us, and how we can be more deliberate in the signals that we send.

David Burkus is the author of The Myths of Creativity. Find out more and download free creativity resources at davidburkus.com.

This article was written by David Burkus from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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