Manage How Others Perceive You

Manage How Others Perceive You

Harvard Business School professor Laura Huang offers unique advice on turning social and business interactions to your advantage.

Harvard Business School associate professor Laura Huang provides a playbook for finding a competitive advantage in situations in which you are at a disadvantage. Huang points out that you can’t prevent people from forming quick perceptions, because evolution wired the brain to make rapid judgments on minimal clues. But, she asserts, you can influence what people think by offering alternative cues. Huang shows you how to turn your potential disadvantages into advantages by gently “reframing” other people’s perceptions.

Huang explains how to apply her techniques to business settings in this guide to productive interaction in any context. Her unique approach to gaining social advantage led Daniel Pink – the best-selling author of When, Drive and To Sell Is Human and an expert in productive interaction – to say, “Packed with fascinating stories and counterintuitive principles, Edge is a must read for anyone seeking to stand out from the crowd.” Marie Forleo, the author of Everything Is Figureoutable, predicted, “This book will change how you navigate your career and overcome obstacles along the way. Do yourself, and those you work with, a favor and read it now!” And as you embark on learning from Huang, note that Poets & Quants named her one of the 40 Best Business School Professors Under 40.

Other readings that align with and nourish Huang’s perspective include Inclusify by Stefanie K. Johnson, All You Have to Do Is Ask by Wayne Baker, You Can Have It All by Romi Neustadt and Hope Kelaher’s Here to Make Friends.

Gain an Edge 

When you engage in any negotiation, Huang’s thesis posits, you must contend with other people’s perceptions of you.

Gaining an edge is about knowing that even without certain endowments, you can create an advantage for yourself, especially in the circumstances that are most challenging and consequential.Laura Huang

Huang explains that her approach is not about deception, but about offering an alternate frame for other people’s perceptions. She advises using aspects of your life story to your advantage by revealing how they fuel your uniqueness and the singular value you offer.

To explicate her method, Huang utilizes the acronym “EDGE.”


Successful people create advantages for themselves, Huang tells readers, by providing value to everyone they work with: colleagues, supervisors, investors and customers. She urges to you make sure people appreciate the value you provide and to contribute so you stand out from the crowd. ​​​​

Huang offers a compelling take on dealing with obstacles. She advises not focusing on the obstacle or defining it as the central problem, because that would lead you to think that the only solution is to eliminate or overcome the obstacle. Instead, Huang proposes changing your perspective to find unexpected solutions by tapping your intuition – which, she insists, doesn’t mean that you should stop thinking rationally.


Huang simplifies a strategy for getting a foot in the door: delight the gatekeepers. She suggests creating delight the way comedians create laughter, by manipulating the element of surprise. 

Delight comes from a place of honesty and sincerity because all it does is give you what was already warranted and deserved in the first place: an opportunity to show how you can enrich.Laura Huang

Huang recommends developing a repertoire of conversation prototypes to fall back on when you’re stuck for something to say or to use as a jumping-off point for more spontaneous exchanges. 


Huang distills her book to a crucial thesis: You can’t prevent other people from forming perceptions about you, but you can influence how they form them and which conclusions they reach. She proposes offering alternative cues to guide someone’s perceptions in the direction that serves you best.

Turn others’ biases to your advantage by reframing them, Huang offers. One way to accomplish this is to direct the conversation to highlight your strengths in areas where stereotypes suggest you will be weak. To guide others’ perceptions successfully, she argues that you need a keen sense of self-awareness – and not only of your inner self. 

The path forward – the path to creating an edge for oneself – is therefore about acknowledging and receiving the perceptions of others, while simultaneously empowering yourself not to embrace and adopt those views.Laura Huang

Huang offers the profound and useful perception that you don’t have only one true self – you have different versions of yourself you adopt in different situations. She makes a strong case that you can remain authentic when adapting to different situations by embracing multiple versions of yourself. With this in mind, Huang cautions against trying to please others by conforming to their expectations. This fails, the author is adamant, because people seldom understand their own expectations. 


Hard work alone may not be enough, Huang maintains, if you haven’t gained an edge. She insists that the most productive use of your energy is to devote your efforts to activities that fulfill her other core steps: enrich, delight and guide.

Seeing Yourself Clearly

Huang is perceptive and brilliant, and she harnesses her brilliance to applicable, real-world advice for succeeding socially and in business. Between the lines of her workable tactics resounds the continual message to trust yourself, your instincts and the various ways you manifest in the world. Offering advice that evokes mindfulness, Huang repeatedly reminds you that most people’s vanities and narcissism prevent them from seeing you accurately. Therefore, she reveals, there is no lack of authenticity in strategically shaping how others perceive you.

Few academics write psychological advice with Huang’s clarity, humor and compassion. By moving easily between the high-minded disciplines of her field and the toughness required to succeed in business – or in any social setting – Huang provides a truly helpful guide.

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