Leadership Communications: Two Flawed Assumptions

“Statistically speaking, there are only weak correlations between how others see us and how we believe we are seen,” notes social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson in No One Understands You and What to Do About It (Harvard Business Review Press, 2015).

When we communicate as leaders, we’re likely operating under two flawed assumptions without even realizing it:

  1. That other people see you objectively as you are.
  2. That other people see you as you see yourself.

Neither of these beliefs are true. You’re much harder to read than you imagine. You may think you’re an open book, but this is rarely the case. Human beings are remarkably complex. You’ll always be a mystery to others, even if you think you’re doing enough to make yourself knowable.

For example, your emotions are often much less obvious than you realize. Strong emotions are easy to read: fear, rage, surprise, disgust. But the more subtle emotions we experience daily—frustration, annoyance, disappointment, impatience and respect—may not actually register on our faces. When they do, they’re usually indistinguishable from other emotions.

Psychologists call this the “transparency illusion.” Great communicators will go the extra mile, clearly articulating what they’re feeling instead of expecting others to deduce it from non-verbal cues.

How “Judgeable” Are You?

Some of us are more knowable than others. Leaders who are easier to understand deliberately express themselves in ways that encourage more accurate perceptions. Psychologists refer to this as “judgeability.”

Introverted leaders who reveal little about themselves will have a hard time with judgeability. If you aren’t shy about sharing your accomplishments and how you achieved them, you’ll also meet listeners’ resistance. Telling someone you graduated at the top of your class or turned around a failing company isn’t as effective as articulating the strengths that helped facilitate these results.

When I’m working with leaders, I often stress that if you don’t tell people what they need to know, their brains will fill in the blanks, creating a personality profile of you that may or may not be accurate.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your experiences. You can contact me here, or on LinkedIn.

What is the Virtual Culture Dilemma?

Grab this ebook to find out! I'll also add you to my mailing list to receive the latest news and invitations.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

What drives destructive conflict?

Some conflict is healthy, but some is destructive. Grab this ebook to find out! I'll also add you to my mailing list to receive the latest news and invitations.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

How does agility relate to emotional intelligence?

And how can you tap into it to improve your leadership skills? Grab this ebook to find out! I'll also add you to my mailing list to receive the latest news and invitations.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

What is draining your company culture?

Grab this ebook to find out! I'll also add you to my mailing list to receive the latest news and invitations.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

How can you avoid the Great Resignation?

Grab this ebook to find out! I'll also add you to my mailing list to receive the latest news and invitations.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

4 Ways to Earn Trust (or Bust)

Grab this ebook to find out how to build a loyal and high-performing team. I'll also add you to my mailing list to receive the latest news and invitations.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

More Trust = More Profitability

Grab this white paper to find out how to improve your bottom line by increasing employees' trust in management. I'll also add you to my mailing list to receive the latest news and invitations.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Lack of Team Alignment?

Grab this white paper to find out how to avoid low performance and align your team! I'll also add you to my mailing list to receive the latest news and invitations.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Want to Build a Proactive Team?

Grab this white paper to find out how to get employees to think for themselves, take responsibility, and raise performance! I'll also add you to my mailing list to receive the latest news and invitations.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Building Self Command

Bridging the Employee Passion Deficit

Grab this white paper to find out why people are passionate about their work but not their employer (and how to fix it)! I'll also add you to my mailing list to receive the latest news and invitations.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Engagement Surveys Lead to Mediocre Outcomes

What should you do instead? Grab this white paper to find out! I'll also add you to my mailing list to receive the latest news and invitations.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Set yourself (and your team) up for success with these essential habits

Beyond "get up at 5am and drink water," these habits will elevate your leadership, inspire your team and set you up for success.

You have Successfully Subscribed!