Hard-hat to toe-cap, mind the perception gap

From hard-hat to toe-cap.

Ever wondered where the sayings, ‘head strong’, ‘gut instinct’ and ‘finding your feet’ come from.  As human beings we receive and react to communication in all manner of ways.

As a successful and highly-commended communications professional working in the construction and infrastructure industry, I have done my fair share of studying. A topic of particular interest to me is how employees and clients perceive communications and the ‘perception gap’. (The difference between your ‘intended message’ and the ‘received message’.)

What you don’t often read about, however, is which area of the body is influenced or affected when we receive communication.

Mind the Perception Gap

Example – The boss calls the team into the boardroom, tension is high and agitation visible. “We are not on target to meet the deadline on project X, I need you to get everything complete and on my desk by Friday morning. No exceptions!” directing the team out of the office, I know I can count on you.”  

Result – The team leave, feeling blamed and undervalued, project X wasn’t even being handled by this team, so moral falls and they disconnect, they now know their boss is a prize prat.

Reflection – The poor boss, merely intended to relay the urgency and, actually called in the top team to get the job done on time. However, the team interpreted the boss’ communication as hot-headed, hostile and blaming, the impact being the erosion of trust, and a successful project delivery is now at greater risk.

The 7 levels of positive communication perception

Below in table 1,  we see the how each communication can be received and how influential or informative each channel can be, I have also included ‘Nature’ in the first column, to

Nature

Intended result & positive perception

Channel/delivery

Impact zone

Knowing -(head) Fully connected on all levels Face to face High-level influence
Seeing – (eyes) Focused on and can see the big picture – sense of purpose and direction Events / Seminars Mid-level influence
Speaking – (mouth) Able to communicate the message and apply self-expression (emphasis) Phone calls/conference calls Low-level influence
Loving/caring-(heart) Acceptance of message, by faith Hand written message Equal information/influence
Act upon – (gut instinct) Confident in the communication, and in control of reaction Mass electronic methods (group emails) High-level information
Feeling – (desire) Communication invokes feelings, generates a sense of well-being and acceptance Direct message Mid-level information
Belonging – foundation Provides foundational messaging such as company values, invokes a greater sense of belonging General/Advert, Posters etc. Low-level information
(Table 1.  Seven levels of positive communication perception)

The 7 levels of negative communication perception gap

In table 2 we see the negative impact of each communication channel if the intended message is received in a negative way.  Row one here articulates the ‘perception gap’ example, mentioned above.

Face to face communication done badly, creates a team who are fully disconnected and, they  know the boss’ approach was hot-headed and has damaged trust.

Nature (lack of)

Unintended result & negative perception

Channel/delivery

Impact zone

Knowing – (head) Fully disconnected on all levels Face to face High-level influence
Seeing – (eyes) Lack of focus – no sense of purpose and no direction Events / Seminars Mid-level influence
Speaking – (mouth) Unable to communicate the message but apply self-expression (rumours) Phone calls/conference calls Low-level influence
Loving/caring (heart) Disconnect from message,  faith lost Hand written message Equal information/influence
Act upon -(gut instinct) No confidence in the communication, no control of reaction Mass electronic methods (group emails) High-level information
Feeling – (desire) Communication invokes feelings, generates a sense of accusation and disengaged Direct mail Mid-level information
Belonging – (foundation) Provides confused core messaging which invokes a lack of belonging General/Advert, Posters etc. Low-level information
(Table 2 – Seven levels of negative communication perception)

When approaching business communication, it is wise to reassess what your intended message is, the channel of delivery and discuss, with others, how your message could be perceived.

“From hard-hat to toe-cap, mind the perception gap.”

Clare Elevique

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