Perception management. A term originally coined by the US Military, is the process of conveying or denying information to a(n) (foreign) audience to influence emotions, motives and objective reasoning with the goal of influencing perception, resulting in actions favorable to the originator’s objective. In simple words, it is managing information so that others believe what I want them to believe and act accordingly.
For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money! As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else.1 Thessalonians 2:4-6
Paul and his companions were obviously not concerned with managing the impressions others formed. Their motives were questioned; they were accused of flattery, running a scam and seeking praise. In other words, they couldn’t be trusted. If concern for perception had been important for them, the accusations might have been different.
There are two ways I get caught in perception management. First, if I am an honest person and really want your approval, I give or withhold information based on what I believe will sway you in a favorable direction. Or, if I am a dishonest person and I don’t want you to know my secrets, I give or withhold information to hide my behavior. Hiding or revealing information to produce results favorable to me is perception management. At it’s core, it is duplicitious behavior.
As a follower of Jesus, I don’t need to give one thought to perception management. My focus needs to be on Jesus. My concern is for what pleases Him, not what pleases others. It is almost a given that at some point, my actions will disappoint someone or at the very least, be misunderstood or misconstrued. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4,
As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.1 Corinthians 4:3-4
Perception management is a twisted trail to travel down; one that will prove to be troublesome at some point. It is so easy to be pulled in this direction. For one, it is quite accepted, and even expected, to live in a way that reveals or conceals only what will impress others. It is counterproductive to authenticity.
Do you find yourself caught in the web of perception management? Is concern for what others think or say about you choking the life out of you? As Elsa sang in Frozen, “Let it go, let it go!”
You might even want to take the time to listen to the song as it is an invitation to live from who you really are rather than attempting to manage and hide behind a facade.