When trying to manage others’ perceptions of a situation, trying to understand/empathise with the following factors in the audience’s collective headspace could be useful:
- Assumptions – the inevitable preconceived ideas, prejudices and stereotypes that we all bring to every situation.
- Different world views – we can each operate on wildly different baselines of understanding about how the world should and should not be. Throw personality disorders into the mix and we all do indeed live in different worlds.
- Semantics – language can be very limited as a tool of expression. Even disregarding (if possible) the various nuances and shades that are possible, a single word like “freedom” can still have wildly different definitions for different individuals.
- Secondary or hidden agendas – these could be conscious and explicit (at least in the individual’s mind) or subconscious and hidden even to the individual. The need to please, the fear of judgement, the intention to subvert… these all colour every message.
Then again, maybe the whole concept of expectations management is moot; an invention to placate our own fears and insecurities; the pretence that we have any hope of (a) totally understanding what is going on in another person’s head, and (b) have any chance of seriously influencing those thoughts. ;)