My Musing: Of Perceptions

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After a tiring year, and as part of activities marking its end of year celebrations, a choral music group I lead, decided to go de-stress and re-strategize at a poolside in the outskirts of Accra. We ate, drank, ‘socialized’, swam, danced and discussed various issues. We had lots of fun. Some members of the group consequently shared pictures on social media by flooding their walls with them and updating their display pictures. No problem with it, right? It could be repeated every quarter or half-yearly, ‘no be so’?    

We also thought same until a member of the church saw the pictures on social media and burst our bubble really bad like a gum does around the lips. He summoned myself and another leader of the group for a short meeting yesterday after a church function and gave us his cent’s worth. Even though the countenance on our faces suggested we were not ‘happy’ with the words being spoken, he kept adding cent after cent. He made a very profound statement which got me thinking. It was on perceptions. Although he said he could vouch that nothing untoward happened at our get-together, it was not a good impression to create to other people in the church and our followers. He intimated that for young Christian guys to be seen bare-chested in the company of other young Christian ladies in [sexy] bikinis was ‘improper’. When he saw the quizzical look on our faces, he added another cent: “whatever perception one has of you in life is that fellow’s bona fide property which remains his for as long as he chooses to possess it – it can’t be taken away from him. He owns it!”

It was this statement that drew my attention to a quote by US R&B/Soul singer Sonya Teclai. She said: “Life is all about perception – positive versus negative. Whichever you choose [to project] will affect and more than likely reflect your actions.” Juxtaposing that to what the gentleman said yesterday brought out the truism contained therein.

It is quite painful for people to describe you with words that you know are not true - words that bear no semblance to who you really are. And isn’t it the case that these are done by people who do not have first hand details about you, but are only repeating what they hear another say? This is rife in politics.

Anti-corruption agency, Ghana Integrity Initiative in its annual survey does not measure the level of corruption, but rather the perception of it. The only requirement is for citizens to just hold the view [sometimes erroneously] that a state institution is corrupt and the index shoots up. Quite apart from the actual incidence of corruption in Ghana, sometimes, all it takes for a government appointee to be deemed corrupt is for an opinion leader to insinuate that he owns a fuel pump station springing up in a community maybe because he goes to visit his concubine who resides there. It will be passed on by other people, it sticks, and then that appointee is now known as a corrupt government official. Even if it is false, that negative impression has been created, as if keeping a concubine isn’t bad enough. He would have to deal with that too.

At President Akufo-Addo’s investiture last Saturday, he delivered what I deemed a ‘powerful’ speech by all standards. Social media was awash with his praises being sung by even some of his political opponents, and rightly so, until news and accompanying video filtered in that portions of it were lifted from the inaugural speeches of former US Presidents Clinton and Bush in 1993 and 2001 respectively. Those two paragraphs took the shine off an otherwise great speech. Then right thinking Ghanaians raised issues. His press aide, Eugene Arhin, consequently accepted responsibility and duly apologized for the gaffe, but the President has been and is still being subjected to public ridicule. International news agencies have already reported it, and the impression has been created is that Eugene is not a believer of ‘original content’. What this means is that over the next couple of months, any speech Nana Addo makes is going to be subjected to a thorough scrutiny by his political opponents, just like Melanie Trump and President Buhari are currently facing. A friend based in the States, in his comment to a group discussion on the subject on Whatsapp said about Melanie: “You think Trump’s wife is respected? She only has the title!” And this is ‘just’ because she plagiarized Michelle’s speech.  

Now the very painful thing about trying to correct a negative impression people hold about you is the sheer amount of work that needs to be done. It robs one of his resources, whether time, money or even quality relationships. Even if one goes to court to ‘clear’ his name, some section of the public will still hold that negative view. It is stuck, sadly.

And wait! - before you tell me to “pay no attention to the haters”, just know I have read those books that suggest same too. But also remember we live in a community where most jobs are offered on the basis of ‘who knows you?’. Just remember some people decide to look favourably on you because of the positive perception they have about you. Just remember some lucrative business deals are won just because of a referral another gave. Also remember some lives have been damaged too because of it.

So why don’t we put your best foot forward henceforth?  

Do enjoy the fruitfulness this week promises.

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The writer is a chartered accountant and a freelance writer, and can be contacted at Click here for other articles he’s authored.