Applying the Perception Equation to Relationships

In Personal Strategies & Goal, Recent Posts, Leadership, Execution by Steve Sliwa

I’ve talked many times about the perception equation and provided practical applications of using it to solve problems like college registration and parking. In both cases, the issue had been resolved already but was improperly communicated. In personal relationships, I recommend addressing the communication portion of the equation early on.

I use my marriage to my wife Nancy as the example in this post, but apply the same principle to the special someone in your life. Nancy and I wed on February 15, 1986, so we’ve been married for 33 years now. From day one, my goal was always to show Nancy that I love her. Some of you may know of the Five Love Languages. Nancy’s love language tends to be words of affirmation. Now, this should be obvious and easy-to-do, but as an engineer and technical person who tends to be an introvert, I’m not always great at such communication. So, I had to come up with ways to properly communicate that.

The perception equation is simply:

Perception = Reality + Communication

Perception: The resulting collective view or impression that a person or group has about a topic of interest.
Reality: The actual truth about the topic of interest.
Communication: The collective information flow to that person or group about a topic of interest.

To apply this and create an action plan for my relationship with Nancy, I might write:

Love is Affirmed/Perceived = Reality: Love her + Communicate It

The question now becomes, “How can I show her I love her?” Throughout the years, I’ve used various approaches, but my most effective solution, and the one that garners the most attention when I share it, is my wifi password. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s ingenious, really.

The password to our home wifi is “stevelovesnancy.” Now, this isn’t something that either Nancy or I have to type in regularly, but when company arrives and asks for our password, one of us has to say “Steve Loves Nancy all lowercase.” It’s a small reminder that comes out of the blue, not something either of us plans. The looks on our guests’ faces reconfirm how effective this communication is.

In a way, I’ve trademarked this because no one who has personally experienced this can repeat it, especially in the situation where both partners were present. The good news for readers is that your special someone probably doesn’t know about my technique. So, feel free to use it.

Nancy, in turn, came up with her own approach. She ordered a custom license plate for her car. “I LUV SMS” SMS, as you probably guessed, are my initials. Unfortunately, it also is a term for texting. I sometimes wonder if a police officer will pull her over to see if she is texting. So far, she’s been lucky.


It turns out that my love language is acts of service. As you saw above, Nancy’s is words of affirmation. I had to be creative so that my acts of services could be uniquely branded and hint of words of affirmation. Like in most sharing relationships where people live together, Nancy gives me “Honey-Do Lists.” In a sense, these are mundane chores that simply have to be done, but in the interest of communicating my love of Nancy, I decided to improve my branding by calling it “Steve’s Concierge Service.”

When Nancy needs something, she merely talks with her private concierge (me). In fact, she tells her friends to use her Steve’s Concierge Service when they have a technical issue with their phone or computer. Yes, it’s merely a renamed Honey-Do List, but look at how effective it is. Better branding equals better communication of “I love you, Nancy.”


After being together for many years, it is essential to properly communicate the reality in order to create the perception you want. Not only does this apply to personal relationships but also to business connections, such as employees and colleagues. Do your employees have the perception you want them to have? The communication required to make that a reality doesn’t have to be costly or elaborate, but you may need to be creative.

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