When perception affects your reality

Many months ago, we moved to an island.  Our house does not have a dock associated with it, unlike many of the homes here.  While it makes our lifestyle more affordable, it also makes our house less marketable.

We were recently approached about a mooring, which would allow us to keep a boat just off the island and associate it with our property.  The potential for increased value and marketability of the house is something we couldn’t pass up, even though I had reservations about the investment.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the mooring without a registered boat, so we went looking for a used one that would fit the bill.

The lakes region of New Hampshire is north of where we live, so we headed up to a family-owned business we knew from years ago.  When you find fair and reasonable businesses, you tend to want to interact with them again.

When we arrived, we came inside to warm up – shopping for boats when it’s snowing outside is not exactly inspiring.  We talked through what we were looking for and prepared to go outside and take a look at an older boat.

We had been running errands that morning, getting some things moved from storage.  We were in our truck, prepared – if need be – to pull a boat somewhere.  Hooded sweatshirts, jeans and sneakers were our attire of choice.  Mud season has started, and traipsing around in anything nice outdoors happens at your peril this time of year.

We looked like what we are – generally unassuming people who try to live within our means.

The owner pulled my husband aside and let him know, if the used boat didn’t work out, he had a prior year model at a price point he felt could work for us.

If you know anything about boats, used ones are a crapshoot.  Motors are the real investment, so an older one will likely cost you in additional fuel and maintenance.  Newer ones are more efficient, driving down the annual cost of use and upkeep.

At least that’s what my husband was telling me as I frowned at the used boat we had come to see.  It was coming apart inside, so I could only imagine what the engine would do once we got it home.

So, despite not wanting to get a newer boat, that’s what we ended up going with.  The offer the owner put together was within what I felt was reasonable, so we took it.

As we were talking through the deal, with the amount and boat settled, the salesman kept looking at me funny.  Finally, he asked me what I do for a living.  I told him, and then wondered why he had asked.

“Because you are so professional.  We don’t get a lot of that around here.”

What we were presenting physically – our truck and clothes – as well as our interest in a less expensive boating option, put us in one mental bucket.

My speech and language told him something was off.  But he couldn’t figure out what until he knew what I did for a living.  Suddenly I was in a different bucket.  I could see it on his face – that aha moment when you solve a puzzle that doesn’t make sense.

If we had come in a different car, wearing different clothes, I doubt we would have received the same offer.  Not because they would try to gouge us, but because they would have tried to align their sales pitch to what they perceived as our interest.

No matter what environment we are in, or what life changes we may be experiencing, it pays to remember perception matters.


Look like what you do.  If you are presenting at a conference or making a high-end purchase, look like you belong there.

Look like what you want to do.  When you want that promotion, or to be considered for the next big project, look like you already have the role.

Look like who you are, no matter what you do.  When you want to be able to connect with other moms on the playground, dress for you.

And if you want a deal…consider whether showing up in a luxury car or carrying a designer handbag will get you the true scoop on what sales are going on.


Think ahead on what you present and the environment in which you are presenting.  Creating a mismatch, such as looking like you are ready for the next role, vs the role you are in, can be a great thing.  A mismatch on the playground, however, may mean other moms assume you are unapproachable and you’re riding the bench solo.

Awareness of your unspoken message can help make it an intentional one.


Have there been times when you created a perception – intentionally or  not – that resulted in a different reality?  I would love for you to share your experience in the comments and keep the conversation going.