The top line: You probably do know what people think of you
But it’s likely you don’t know any one person’s assessment. “We have a fairly stable view of ourselves,” says Bella DePaulo, visiting professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “We expect other people to see that same view immediately.” And they do. On average there is consensus about how you come off. But you can’t apply that knowledge to any one individual, for a variety of reasons.
For starters, each person has an idiosyncratic way of sizing up others that (like metaperceptions themselves) is governed by her own self-concept. A person you meet will assess you through her unique lens, which lends consistency to her views on others. Some people, for example, are “likers” who perceive nearly everyone as good-natured and smart.
I dunno. My view of myself seems deeply influenced by my mood, but if that’s what she thinks is within the realm of “fairly stable”, I guess I’ll go along with it.
I asked my wife if I seem like a nervous person. She said no. I was surprised. I told her that a lot of times I feel like a nervous wreck, and then she was surprised. She assured me that I don’t come off that way. I believe her when she says that. I’d know if she were only trying to make me feel better, because I know her so well.
I do agree with the above statement that we each have “an idiosyncratic way of sizing up others” according to our self-concept. People expect me to hold opinions of them that are not what I caught on to when I met them. Then I wonder what kind of face I was making when I met them. I was probably aloof, off in my own head, trying to think of something clever due to my ridiculous desire to say something funny to make them laugh, because that’s what I think will have the best chance of making them like me and not think I’m boring.
If I get to know them well enough, we’ll probably agree. Or at least I will have addressed the disparity in their expectations and the actual outcome of what kind of person I believe they are.