Maybe you think you're the "assertive one" or perhaps you assume you have the reputation as the "nice guy." But there's a good chance the labels you place on yourself, might not line up with the way others see you.
What the Research Says
Recognizing how others perceive you could give you valuable insight into why you aren't being promoted or why you struggle to close those sales deals. But even though most of us would like to think we're self-aware, studies show our introspection meter may be a bit faulty.
A 2014 study published in the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, found that most people have trouble recognizing whether their counterparts view as a wimp or a jerk.
Through a series of studies involving students enrolled at Columbia Business School, researchers tested participants' ability to recognize how others perceived them. Participants were paired for mock negotiations and then, asked questions about their performance and their partner's performance. They were also asked to judge how they thought their partners perceived them.
Fifty-seven percent of the participants who thought they were either appropriately assertive or over-assertive, were actually viewed as being wimpy in their negotiations. Fifty-six percent of people who were viewed as jerks, had judged their own behavior as either appropriately assertive or under-assertive.
Thirty-eight percent of participants were seen as being appropriately assertive by their counterparts. But, the vast majority of them thought they were actually overly aggressive.
Ultimately, over 50 percent of participants were wrong about how others perceived them.
Limited Self-Awareness Limits Negotiating Power
Being oblivious to the way others perceive you can have serious consequences. Despite the best skills in the world, a lack of self-awareness may sabotage your best efforts.
The study found that limited self-awareness interfered with participants' negotiation skills. Those who incorrectly assumed they were too pushy, tried to repair the relationship. This resulted in accepting less lucrative offers in an attempt to keep the relationship on friendly terms.
They weren't aware that there was no need to 'fix' the relationship. Their partner didn't think they had crossed the line into becoming aggressive.
Of course, the idea that they'd crossed the line may have stemmed from their partner's strategic negotiating skills. Authors of the study suggest partners who said things like, "You've got to be kidding me," and "You're killing me!" may have influenced participants into thinking they were too aggressive.
Clearly, if someone else thinks you're a jerk, there's a good chance they'll be less interested in conducting fair business deals with you. But, if others view you as a pushover, it's likely they'll try to take advantage of your desire to please.
Pushing Appropriately to Get What You Want
Getting what you want in life--whether it's a raise or a lower price on a car--requires you to push appropriately. But just because you think you're being assertive, doesn't mean others perceive you that way.
Gaining self-awareness can be complicated. One of the best ways to gain insight, is to seek feedback from a trusted mentor or leader. Hearing an honest evaluation of your performance can be instrumental--if you're willing to listen.