It’s All About Perception

They say perception is reality. What reality do your readers perceive?

Today’s Blog post was supposed to be a video showing a behind-the-scenes glimpse of our process for delivering over 1,000 pieces of EzineArticles gear (aka “shwag”) every single month – similar to the one we did in May. Sadly, we decided to nix that video. Somewhere between concept and execution, the video went slightly awry and we ended up with a piece that was less about shwag and more about the dangers of misperception.

The plan for the video was to show you what it takes to deliver those highly-coveted EzineArticles promotional items to our top-performing authors. We decided to go with an off-the-cuff, light-hearted style in order to make the video both entertaining and informative. I hosted the video as usual and we got the whole thing shot and edited together in only a few hours.

It wasn’t until after the video was complete that we spotted several issues with perception. Things that we thought were funny, or added a secondary layer of meaning, came off as insulting and/or disrespectful. One reference to our Promotional Items Coordinator sounded like an insult when it was actually a term of endearment. An allusion to the exotic scent of a returned package seemed to say that people from that country smelled bad. And my playful attitude with the shwag gave the impression that it was cheap and worthless rather than fun and useful.

My Point Regarding Articles: Despite your best intentions, what your reader is gleaning from your article is often much different than the reality of what you meant for them to perceive. Their personal perspective, upbringing, cultural values and more can have a huge impact on how your material is perceived.

7 Tips to Avoiding Misperception:

  1. Don’t assume everybody thinks the same way you do. Write with an awareness of the subtle, yet profound, impact the reader imparts on the articles you’ve written.
     
  2. Recognize that readers may not understand your style of presentation. The people reading your articles often aren’t your friends, relatives, coworkers or associates. They don’t know the real you, so they don’t hear the article in your voice and style. Ideally, have somebody that doesn’t know you very well proofread your articles.
     
  3. Remember, humor is relative. What’s funny to you may actually be insulting to your reader. Was being a jerk your intent? Or were you simply trying to make them laugh?
     
  4. Accept the fact that all readers arrive with emotional baggage. We are all products of our own life experiences. Sad but true. Be sensitive to the fact that your readers may be bringing some powerful emotional baggage to the reading experience.
     
  5. Keep your perceptions to yourself. Perception is transferable. If you’re writing for a company or a product, be aware that the reader’s opinion of you will probably be transferred to your company or product. So any negativity you build into your article will get transferred to those people and items associated with your article.
     
  6. Keep in mind that your articles have an international audience. While it’s true that the world is becoming more homogeneous everyday, there are still profound cultural and spiritual differences between us that can profoundly affect how your articles are perceived.
     
  7. Choose your words carefully. Words have power. So when you’re trying to pick the perfect word in an article, think about both the literal meaning and the inferred meaning of that word before making a decision.

Sometimes things turn out differently than we expect. For example, sometimes a totally innocent idea can blow up in our face – like the shwag video did for us. However, as a result, we gave birth to a blog post on a topic we’ve never covered before … which is infinitely more valuable than the shwag video ever could have been.

Leave a comment and tell us about your run-ins with misperception. What did you learn from the experience?

12 Comments »


1

Almost a decade ago, I told a client from another country that we’d “Grandfather” them in on the deal… which is lingo that means that the customer will get the benefit of the new bargain without having to pay for it because they were a previous client.

Instead, the client was highly insulted and thought I was talking down to them as if they were too old {like a Grandfather} to be understanding what I was trying to share with them. Arggh! That wasn’t my point or intent, but I’ve since learned to never assume other people who can speak the same language that I speak will know or understand the meaning behind the words & concepts that I previously thought were worldwide/universal. This was a very humbling lesson…

Comment provided June 16, 2010 at 11:31 AM

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2
Barbara Fulmer writes:

Wow! This one is timely. I sent a book concept about hating air travel, That’s MY Armrest, You Moron!, to an agent who thought it was great and suggested I create a blog, FlyRant.com, to support it. I did and what turned out to be funny in book format was deemed to be ‘mean’ on the blog. I’m on the fence about it because my readers seem to think it’s funny but wondering if I’m off course. Never one to rely on only one person’s opinion, but still hate to think I’m so off the mark.

Comment provided June 16, 2010 at 2:04 PM

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3
Leon Noone writes:

G’Day Marc,

I think that perception, and it’s mate expectation, are two forces we all pay far little attention to. You published two articles of mine about this on March 26 and 30.

It isn’t always a disaster. Years ago, we sent a brochure to our clients advertising a seminar called “Precision In Communciation. “Only one client rang to point out that we’d spelt “communication ” wrongly. We didn’t notice either . Even the people who came to the seminar didn’t notice. It proved to be a good talking point, given the subject of the seminar.

They read what they expected to read. I must confess that some of them perceived us to be well…… at least careless.

Make sure you have fun.

Regards

Leon

Comment provided June 16, 2010 at 11:55 PM

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4

Some people can be very sensitive when it comes to terms they do not understand. Some also feel threatened and have to quickly react in self defense. So we must choose our words with care so as not to offend certain people.

Comment provided June 17, 2010 at 3:05 AM

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5
Lance Winslow writes:

Hey wait a minute. A writer should go after their TARGET market, and not necessarily worry what a bunch of kids playing on the Internet perceive an article to mean. If you are writing for a sophisticated crowd, one which is well read, experienced, then you really may not care one bit what people perceive; that’s their problem if they aren’t smart enough to understand. If a reader feels insulted, well maybe that’s a “wake up call” for them to realize they aren’t that experienced in the industry, in politics, in geo-political matters, in technology, etc., thus, they can choose to read someone else’s articles.

You see, in my “point of view” since we are talking about “perception” and using politically correct terms, the reality is “I Don’t Care” what those who “don’t get it” think about my articles, I am not writing for the lowest common denominator or average person. See that point, I have a specific audience, one I care to associate with, the others, it just doesn’t matter.

Now then in your case, making a video for authors is great and there are all sorts of authors at all levels, so yes, you have to be careful, but you should also realize if you make a video that makes everyone all happy and it is too politically correct, you really turn off the intellectual writers, that’s their perception. Further, today I read 30 research papers, took me all day, on some rather intellectual topics, but they were less-than-stellar, because they worried too much about perception, they were too politically correct, and on more than half of them, I cringed, wondered if the folks that wrote them had IQs of more than 110 and these are academic researchers, supposedly the best and brightest.

If a piece of humor blows over one of my reader’s heads, they are not my reader or audience. If a reader doesn’t understand my style or presentation they have two choices, get with the program or click on one of the ads on that page! It takes too much time to write and dummy down articles to the lowest common denominator, it fills the Internet with garbage, and I personally don’t want to compete for that 6th grade reading level, they are not my target audience.

So, I’d say I on one hand totally agree with what you are saying here for most of the Internet Article Marketers, and so perhaps this was a good call for your video, still, I thank you for allowing me the ability to drive a truck through your premise and introduce a devil’s advocate contrarian view.

Those who wish to read my articles, better bring their brains with them, turn off the TV and think, if not they’ll miss it, and really I feel that’s their loss, but also their choice. See my point-of-view, and the other side of that coin. We have too much dummying down online, I just refuse to follow.

Comment provided June 17, 2010 at 3:45 AM

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6
Patricia writes:

Your 6th point indicates that you know that you have an intenational audience.
If English is not your reader’s forte, he/she will probably use one of the online translation tools, which are still far from perfect.
So, if your targeet is mainly international audience, you have two solutions.
Either you keep a low level of English, or you have your article professionnally translated into your main target languages and include a link in the body of your article with the name of the language as an anchor text.
This is actually the only way to ensure that your international readers will read what you wrote and not some semi gibberish automatically generated.

Comment provided June 25, 2010 at 6:25 AM

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An excellent point, Patricia. Finding the balance between appropriate words and simplicity can be challenging, but it definitely opens the door to a broader readership.

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7
Keelan Cook writes:

Excellent point! I actually live outside the US in Africa and culture is very different here. Many points that I attempt to communicate come across muddled at best. It is essential to have a clear, crisp meaning that transcends culture.

Sometimes, that requires a little homework. Know your audience!

Comment provided June 30, 2010 at 5:39 PM

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Keelan, I couldn’t agree more! We struggle with writing for a worldwide, multicultural audience every day. It’s no easy task!

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8
jon bone writes:

Perception is made up from your beliefs and culture is collective beliefs, it is wise to take them into consideration when writing an article

Comment provided October 20, 2010 at 5:42 AM

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9

thats correct patricia, as a writer, he/she should get deep down into the heart and soul of his/her intended audience to carry the viewpoint successfully across to them.

Comment provided April 19, 2011 at 4:14 PM

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10
vivek vyas writes:

perception is the atitude or eye in which a person see the world. the man is noting then he learns from his experiences and he mades perceptions. these perception are his personality

Comment provided May 25, 2012 at 8:13 AM

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