November 6, 2009

First impressions follow you everywhere

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Hypothetical situation: You're a person who is highly visible in the community. You are a well-known business owner, a philanthropist, or a politician. People talk about you; media covers anything you do.

You're having a bad day and an annoying stranger cuts in line ahead of you. You are less than friendly about it. Word gets around.

Someone calls your home and your spouse can't be bothered to take a message. People talk.

Because people know who you are, there is no time or place that you are not "on."

You, reader, may think you're lucky to escape the constant scrutiny of the public as an average citizen. But the truth is, if you want to be successful as a speaker or business owner -- or anyone else who relies on other people for your livelihood -- you might want to rethink that.

Here's another hypothetical situation: You've been engaged to speak for the local Junior League chapter. You're driving to the meeting and someone cuts you off on the freeway. You honk your horn, yell some obscenities, maybe even (no, not YOU!) flip them off.

You get to the meeting and -- guess what -- the person on the freeway is the president of the organization you're speaking for.

Or you're staying at a hotel where you're speaking at a conference. You get into an elevator to go to your room, and as someone runs for the elevator, you let it close. So what? Next day, you find that person in your seminar, surrounded by influential colleagues. You may have thought it was no big deal, but that person now considers you exceedingly rude.

It may sound like I'm saying that you should always be on your best behavior because you never know when you're going to encounter a client or even a prospective client, and you want to make a good impression. And yes, that's true.

But really, we make an impression everywhere we go. If you really want to make a good impression all the time, you just have to be a good person. It's a lot of work to always be wondering who's watching. It's actually a lot less work to stop worrying about who's watching and just be a better person all the time.

And, by the way, if you are a person in the public eye, you might want to train your family members on how to take your phone calls. Unfortunately, they are an extension of your brand and your business, and their bad behavior can harm you just like your own can.

First impressions follow you, everywhere you go. Remember that.

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4 comments. Please add yours! :

Unknown said...

Funny! I wrote about this last month.

A guy cut me off in his car -- twice. But he was oh-so-nice to me when we met minutes later in real life.

He had no idea I was the woman he almost carelessly killed.

While it's easy to be nice in person, sometimes we forget that there are people behind machines (cars, computers, etc.) -- and that we need to approach every human-driven machine with courtesy!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for sharing, Laura! I must have missed that post; I'll have to go back and read it!

Unknown said...

You can try to be considerate because you think of the public image implications...

...or you can just try to be a considerate person to make this world a more human place.

Lisa Braithwaite said...


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