The Grapevine…

…and other questionable sources of information.

For day 16, Zero to Hero has suggested the Daily Prompt as inspiration. I’m not sure how inspiring it is, but it made for a fantastic conversation with a colleague today. The question is this:

Do you have a reputation? What is it, and where did it come from? Is it accurate? What do you think about it?

 I had to think about that for a minute. Honestly, the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear this is “bad reputation.”  As in “He’s got a reputation for…” It’s usually spoken in a half-whisper from one person to another who is about to have a meeting with this person. It’s rare to hear something like, “John? Oh, yes, he’s got a great reputation for being fair. I’d definitely buy from him.”

So I talked to my colleague, “P”  about “reputation”…because I suppose we all have one! In fact, this prompt really just inspired more questions from me, and no real answers. Do I have a reputation? I image that I do, but quite frankly I have no idea what it is! I know what I *hope* it is, I know what I *think* I portray, but in the end, as “P” says, “Perception is reality.” In the end, if we are ever privileged enough to find out how it is that others perceive us, we must accept that even if it isn’t really true, it is still how we are portraying ourselves. Which leads to the next question,

“What does one do with this information?” Is is accurate? If not, why not? If I think I’m being reserved, and others perceive this as “snobby”, can I change that perception? If I think I’m being precise and others think I am being nit-picky, can I change how I present myself? If so, how? If so, it is a trait I want to spend energy changing?

And then there is the question of why we are perceived in a certain way. Is it a one-off observation? Was I just having a horrible day when I met John, therefore he thinks I am a bitter, negative person with nothing nice to say? Or is this the opinion of several people? If so, can I accept that there is usually at least a little truth behind a reputation that truly follows me around? “P” had some great advice about this last bit. He says that if you really care enough that you’re willing to accept that what you’re doing is causing you to have this “reputation”, then you’ve got to do two things:

1) You must be consistent; and 2) You’ve got to stop bringing it up.

So for the first part, you have to consistently change the behavior and then you must resist the urge to say things like, “Hi Sally, nice to meet you. Just so you know, everyone thinks I’m the worst widgeteer in the whole company.” In that case it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. You have to own your “new” reputation and try to imagine that the person you’re talking to hasn’t heard about “the time that you….”  I’m particularly guilty of that last one. In my profession, just about everyone has a “type A” personality, and we do not like to hear that we are not perfect! I mean, of course I know that I make mistakes all the time, but it’s second nature to try to justify my actions, to not be the one who erred. At the same time I always feel compelled to be honest, and somehow that translates into a full disclosure of every error I have made in the last 10 years. Will I make one of those errors again today? Maybe, but there’s no sense in causing the other person to expect that I will. Why not start out with the idea of success, and deal with failure if and when it happens? Here’s hoping I can earn a reputation as an interesting blogger ! 🙂

13 thoughts on “The Grapevine…

  1. Your thought of self-fulfilling reputation (not too much unlike self-fulfilling prophecy) is very eye-opening. I’m an introvert and expect people to think of me as shy, reserved and sometimes the dreaded *B*-word due to my quiet nature. Maybe if I don’t expect that, things will change. Food for thought!


    1. Yes…I am also introverted as a general rule, but less so as I get older. For me, it’s a matter of overcoming a fear of being wrong! As far as the perception of being shy or being a snob, I wonder if the small things which can change that, like a gesture or a smile. I don’t know…maybe I should try harder to observe the demeanor of people I admire?


  2. I appreciate how you started the post with your associations — that when you think reputation, you think bad. I approached it similarly and think it’s really important to notice and reflect on our associations and how culture plays into our perceptions.


    1. Thanks for the comment, Lauren. I read your post and I think you’re right. There is a difference in perception between men and women, whether or not we’d like to admit it. Along those lines, I think women have a tendency to be more self-deprecating than men, also.


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