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What Can You Do If Someone Says Something to You That Reveals They Have The Wrong Impression Of You?
By: Patti Wood MA, CSP

You’re talking to someone a coworker, or perhaps your boss and they say something about you that isn't true about you at all.  What do you do in that moment to correct his or her misperception of you? Perhaps a mistaken impression is shared with you during your performance review, or in passing in an office conversation or meeting. Your boss or co-worker might get the wrong idea about your personality, sense of humor, interests, performance, your work or life goals or other things about you. What can you say in the moment or if you are too surprised to correct it in the moment, what is the best way to go back and set the record straight?

These ideas are adapted from my book “The Conflict Cure

Sometimes you are sure they aren't accurate and sometimes you need clarification. I recommend, if you don't know how they came to that impression, you start by asking for more information.

REQUEST MORE INFORMATION

Sometimes you don’t know why someone has that mistaken impression. You can't disagree or change your behavior without clarity. Ask for the details or a specific explanation of why he or she has that impression of you.

Start your statements with a "SOFTNER" statement that takes out any hostility from your request. You might try, "I need your help to understand..." or "Can you help me understand....?" or "I really want to understand what you’re saying...." Then follow with one of these statements.

Examples:

  • “What specifically have I done that makes you feel that way?”
  • “Can you give me a specific time in the last three weeks that I did this?"
  • “Can you share a specific behavior of mine that you saw recently that led

you to feel that way?”

  • “Can you share an example of my behavior that fits that impression?

If you didn't know you did that and can now see why they feel that way, admit it. If you discover why they came to the wrong conclusion about you, you can correct it by using the “disagree” script.

DISAGREE

Without making the other person wrong. You want to clarify and change their impression not start an argument, so speak in an even neutral tone. Ideally you want to calmly repeat what they have said first, to let them know you heard and understood it before you disagree. Make sure you use their words, don't elaborate or extrapolate. Repeating puts you on even ground with them. Otherwise they may say, "You misheard me."

Examples:

  • "That surprises me, you feel that...." "That is different than my intention

I feel that I....."

  • “You feel…about me, I disagree I feel…” 
  • “I think you have the impression that….but I would like share that I

have done….that shows I am actually…..”