Have you ever had an encounter not go the way you expected and their perception of the event is very different from your intended goal? I wanted to share a story with you to show how your intention to do something you feel is important may affect the way people perceive you. In business, perception of our credibility and commitment is critical, so this story may help you avoid this type of situation.
Yesterday I was at a Mayoral Debate here in my city and after the event was over I got to thinking about the perception that was left unintentionally with the audience.
The format of the debate was set up differently then most people would expect. We have eight people running for Mayor so, as you can imagine, the debate would been very long if everyone had the opportunity to comment on and rebuttal to just a few questions. So to help reduce the time, the organizers created an initial question to allow the candidates to introduce themselves and make an initial comment. They each would get 7.5 minutes for this initial introduction. That is an hour of introductions. Then they were going to allow the audience to vote for the four candidates they wanted to hear from most.
This did not sit well with some of the candidates who felt that it was undemocratic to not allow the public to hear from all candidates. I do understand this point of view and recognize that every candidate brings some knowledge and expertise to the event which could add to the overall value of the community. To stand up for democracy, several had boycotted the event.
The organizers had re-evaluated their format and withdrew the voting aspect to allow everyone to speak through the 2 hour meeting. I don’t know if it was just too late to change their minds again or if they still chose not to attend because of the original format, but only three of the candidates came to the meeting.
So what perception does this give? People in the audience were asking, “why wouldn’t they be here”, and “was this really such a bad thing”. I heard people use the word “whine” and “afraid” when describing the candidates that did not attend.
No matter how righteous their intended boycott was, it had the reverse affect on the audience. This is a high-profile job, where the public will read into the actions of the candidate. Not one person, except the organizer, said, “it is too bad they could not make it”. People assumed they did not want to come. Unfortunately because they were not there they could not let people know or help them understand the importance of their decision or the reason why they were absent. They were judged solely on their absence.
So in your business, sometimes doing something because the alternative does not seem right may give a different impression of intent to your customers. To avoid misunderstandings:
- Communicate with your clients your intent. Don’t leave them hanging.
- Add value for the option you had to cancel (e.g. give them something extra).
- Don’t expect people to see eye-to-eye with you. Respect their different perspectives.
- Accept negative feedback as an opportunity to grow.
- Keep a positive attitude. If you are working from a place of integrity then you can feel good about your decision and others will too.
Have you ever jumped to conclusions about someone else’s motives for missing an important event OR have you ever been judged this way? Share your story below.