What we see and know, or think we see or know is a by-product of how we perceive the information we’ve acquired. There is little objective reality in our world because we apply our thoughts to every thing that passes through the filter of our mind. The world is hardly ever as it is, but rather is as we “perceive” it. This is also true when forming an opinion or making a judgment. These subjective responses require calling upon an internalized collection of experiences and impressions stored in our conscious and subconscious to make sense of what comes within the radar of our senses, to ultimately produce a subjective response.
The implication of those internal references barely describes the more complex perception process, which involves acknowledgement of sensory information, selection, interpretation and re-organization of what is retained. Though being a fascinating mental operation, it can nevertheless greatly alter a message emitted by an outside source.
One could wonder why the understanding of the perceptual process would be relevant to communicators. But we can assume that in many cases, communicators’ real hope is not strictly getting their message across, but mainly causing the right response from their audience or from those people with whom they are communicating. And to achieve that goal, to even pretend to have the slightest ability to induce the right behavior in others, you need to know how they think, and more precisely, whatare the components of their perception process.
Can anyone claim to have this kind of skill? Yes, without a doubt. The best and most successful publicity and public relations strategists understand the importance of perception. This explains why they will take the time and invest the money in thorough studies and research focused on profiling their targeted audience.
Take the example of a politician trying to win the hearts of voters during an election campaign. The candidate will gather a team of strategists who will establish a profile of their targeted audience in order to reveal its collective “mind map” - which usually includes its values, belief system, inclinations and tendencies, likes and dislikes, perhaps even more. This is later used as the main blueprint for the design of the image and message that will most appeal to this audience. Everything is carefully planned down to the smallest details: the haircut, the attire, the colours worn by the candidate, his or her facial expressions and overall gestures, the words to use and not to use, the tone of voice, the flow of speech, the list could go on. In the end, you have the candidate the voters want, with sometimes little leftover of the real person behind the appearance. Since people will vote for whom they “perceive” to be as the most charismatic and most qualified candidate, the strategists have no other choice but to deliver. The ambitious candidate will play the game to increase its chances by letting this team of specialists shape his or her image.
Not everyone is working on large-scale communications, marketing or public relations projects, but we all use communication on a daily basis to get specific results. Getting into the mind of those individuals you interact with doesn’t necessarily involve expensive studies and research, but entails that you pay attention to those people, listen, analyze and learn. As a result, you may come close enough to think like they think, and perceive what they perceive. Thus, you will communicate more efficiently.
In case of doubts, there’s always the communications specialist.