Overcoming Stereotypes: How Do Others View You, Really?

Roadblock to Success:

Not Having a Strong Professional Image

Fourth in the Roadblock to Success series.

Part one: Black Women On Television

Part two:  Who’s Holding Your Ladder

Part three:  Where’d You Get Those Shoes?

Is your professional image what it should be or what it needs to be?  Another way to ask this is, how do others view you really? Are you perceived the way you think you are? More importantly, are you perceived the way you want to be?

Your image is more than how you look.  Your professional image is about your work and management style and your attitude.  And style and attitude are about energy.  A significant part of your image – how people – in this case, your peers, colleagues and executive leadership view you, how they regard or consider you, has to do with the level and quality of energy you consistently display.

Which expression most represents the energy you display?

Which expression represents the attitude and energy you display most often?

The graphic to your left illustrates how our facial expressions communicate your attitude and energy level.

Here are some self awareness questions:

  • How are you showing up? What attitude and emotion do you display most often?
  • Are your frowns of intense concentration misinterpreted as anger?



  • Which of the faces in the illustration would best represent your daily attitude and enthusiasm on average?
  • Which of the faces in the illustration would best represent you during high pressure periods?
  • Do you bring high positive and constructive energy to what you do? Or a low level of energy that suggests low enthusiasm and disinterest for what you do?
  • Are you respected on your team and within your organization or just tolerated?
  • Are you conscious of your emotional energy at work, particularly when interacting with others?    Why is this important?  Because people can feel your energy.  Your energy precedes you.  That pop culture colloquialism “I feel you” is not just a flippant phrase.  It’s science.  Your energy signature precedes you and shows up in everything you do including how you dress. Your energy level presents itself in your voice, your communication style and your facial expressions and body language.
  • What is your communication style? Is it direct or indirect?
  • Do you speak clearly, or are people constantly asking you to repeat yourself?
  • Do you respond to questions with clear and concise answers or do people have to unpack your response?

There are essentially 4 communication styles and depending on the source or assessment tool, they have different labels: Direct, Indirect, Open and Closed.

In an article Black Women @ Work in the November 2014 issue of Essence Magazine , writer Tanisha Sykes discusses four basic communication styles – with clever labels – that are present in the work place:  The Isolated Achiever, the Dutiful Conversationalist, the Safe Communicator and the Expressive Connector.

Not sure what your communication style is, take a communication style assessment to assist you in figuring it out.  Not only is it important to know what your dominant communication style is, you need to know and understand the communication style of those you work with most closely, including direct reports, colleagues and executive leadership.

If you are a team leader, supervisor or manager, how do you regard those on your team?  Do they work for you or work with you?  This is not merely semantics.  There is a difference and the truth of your attitude towards the people on your team makes a big difference in how you are perceived.

Every one of these dynamics plays a part in how you are perceived and why you are taken seriously or not.

If you haven’t already, get a handle on how others really view you.  A 360 assessment is invaluable feedback for this. If your organization does not provide 360 evaluations, work with an executive coach to coordinate and facilitate one for you. It is well worth the investment.

Also get a better understanding of your energy and your attitude so that you can be in better control of your image and its impact on your career trajectory.  (I begin work with all of my clients with an Energy Leadership assessment.  This helps them better understand the type of energy they display under normal circumstances as well as under stress. It is invaluable for making conscious choices about how to respond to the myriad situations they encounter.)

In the final analysis, while ultimately you cannot control what others think about you, you can control how you show up.  How you show up can greatly influence how you are perceived.  As the authors of the Little Black Book of Success note, “what people perceive is what they usually believe”.


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Coach D.Gray-Young, CPC, ELI-MP

Coach D.Gray-Young, CPC, ELI-MP
Certified Personal and Executive Coach

Life is about choices.  what will you choose for you today?

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