(Editor’s Note: PPAI Media’s Voices series introduces the opinions, experience and advice of promo industry influencers. The opinions and ideas belong to the individual writer.)

Ever felt misunderstood? Have you experienced being unfairly judged? Has someone’s perception overshadowed who you truly are and what you offer?

During an education session at PPAI’s Leadership Development Workshop, “Characteristics of Successful Leaders,” these questions flooded my mind. It made me wonder, how do successful leaders handle situations where perception conflicts with reality? The issue weighed on me so much that I asked the session’s moderators for their perspectives. Their response resonated with me, as they illustrated that many people are dealing with this same challenge.

It can be tough when colleagues have a different perception of you than who you truly are. In my view there are no fail-safe methods to permanently overcome this sort of misconception. However, here are five tips I personally use to navigate these situations and potentially win over people.

1. Seek constructive feedback.

Ask for honest feedback from people you trust. They can help you identify if there’s any truth to what others think about you. Don’t just assume “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Trustworthy colleagues can provide insights into how you are perceived versus who you are. Their constructive criticism can help you understand any discrepancies and work on them. This can be an opportunity for growth.

2. Be clear.

Misunderstandings often occur due to a lack of communication. Encourage feedback and actively listen to understand how others see you. Express your thoughts and intentions in a way that resonates with your true self. By expressing yourself clearly you provide others with a better understanding of your nature and what you’re trying to get across. Constructive conversations can correct misinterpretations and bring perception closer to reality.

3. Begin by understanding.

This is an ePromos core value that has never failed me professionally or personally. Understanding is key! Try to understand why they see you in a certain way. Empathy can help you see things from their perspective. It allows you to form some common ground. Sometimes, people’s perceptions are based on their own experiences and biases. Understanding this can help navigate misunderstanding and bridge the gap.

4. Don’t talk about it, be about it.

Actions speak louder than words and they are more persuasive. Show individuals who you are rather than telling them. ‘Step and repeat’ – it’s an oldie but a goodie. Repeat the actions and behaviors that show the real you, not what people perceive.

Remember, most things do not happen overnight. Over time, this consistency will foster trust and credibility. You will reshape others’ perceptions and show the reality of who you are.

       READ MORE: Latisha Marshall: My Best Advice For Any New Manager

5. Accept that you can’t please everyone.

You just might not be everyone’s cup of tea. How others see you isn’t entirely within your control. Despite your efforts, people may continue to view you differently from how you see yourself. Make a choice to filter the external noise and focus on what you can control.

While moments like these can seem defeatist, lean into them. Discomfort creates profound things. Embrace that fact that not everyone will perceive you accurately, and that’s okay as long as you stay genuine to who you are. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of authenticity. Or as Joshua White – head of strategy and general counsel at distributor BAMKO and member of the PPAI Board of Directors – so eloquently said “Just be Normal.” Authenticity shines through and helps align perceptions with reality over time.


By practicing these tips, you can work toward bridging the gap between how people perceive you and the reality of who you truly are. Over time, this can lead to a more accurate understanding of your character and intentions by those around you. Or maybe not, and you may have to learn to be OK with that as well.

How do you combat perception versus reality scenarios?

Marshall is the vice president of operations at distributor ePromos Promotional Products (PPAI 212648, S11). The No. 19 distributor on the 2023 PPAI 100, ePromos was also named one of promo’s Greatest Companies To Work For in 2023 by PPAI Magazine. A self-described “operations fanatic,” Marshall originally joined the company as a pre-production coordinator in 2004.