Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wanted and Unwanted Reputations

 Personal reputations are a huge factor in influencing behavior of all types. What I find very interesting is how those reputations form. Some can form instantaneously and are very hard to change. For example classiness, how a person presents themselves to others. If one sees a person screaming down the street drunk in a not so presentable outfit, a reputation is formed based on an impression, especially if the person making the judgement on the individual does not know the person that well. Some can take a very long time  to form. The general rule is that bad reputations form very quickly and are super hard to change, whereas a respectable reputation takes longer to establish and is very easy to lose. 

An example of a reputation that I received within a couple hours with a group was when I was working on a house for Habitat for Humanity. I help with builds often and I have been a part of building many houses, therefore my knowledge of what needs to be done and how it needs to be done is greater than other volunteers that often volunteer for the first time. This weekend I was helping out on a house and a group of students came to help us at noon. The person who was in charge of the build was busy on the roof so I approached the group of four students and outlined to them what they needed to be doing. Later, the group grew to about 14 volunteers. Most of them for the day approached me with questions about what to do or how something needs to be done. I was glad to answer of course. At the end of the day, many of them came up to me asking me if I was employed by Habitat. I told them that I was a volunteer just like them. 

In this situation, a positive very strong reputation formed that I was in charge. By answering their questions, without really trying, I enforced this reputation. In this situation, I did not want to stray from my reputation as I was not aware of it until they told me at the end of the day they thought I was employed for Habitat. 

Another reputation that I hold amongst my friends is that I am very outgoing, meaning I am not afraid to approach almost anyone and talk to them, it is very easy for me to make friends and am very likable by all. While this is a good reputation to have, there are times that I want to stray away from my reputation. Firstly, being outgoing is an act that anyone can develop or do. My friends view it as me having this magical skill that they simply do not posses, while in reality if they tried approaching people, they can do the same. I do admit that some people are more outgoing than others, but it is a skill one can develop. I was shy for most of my life myself. When I tell them this, they disregard it. There are times at social settings that I have been asked to approach maybe a guy my friend finds an interest in to enable her to talk to him or her. While this is fine, sometimes their expectations are too much. For example at a party that we do not know anyone, they would say go make friends so we can talk to people or my friend asked me on her birthday if I can get guys to buy her and another girl drinks. 

Reputations develop whether they are wanted or not. Some reputations such as being a leader, I cherish and try to foster to make them grow by enforcing them with actions. Some form without me trying and some reputations are unwanted. Regardless of how they form, reputations are very strong in persuading or having an impact on an individual's behavior based on the reputation of another.


  1. On the Habitat example, it sounds as if that happened without your intent at the the outset. Is that true or did you expect it to happen?

    I do agree with you that fundamentally shy people can learn to be outgoing and indeed if put in a leadership position that will happen out of necessity. But what I'd ask is whether this happens by intent or if it is circumstance and serendipity that is the main reason.

  2. Regarding the Habitat example, I did not mean it to happen at all. The volunteers just started assuming that I am in charge but that was not my goal.

    You bring up a good question about shyness. I do agree that when necessity arises, shy people can be more outgoing. I also do think though that if someone wishes to be more outgoing, they can strive to place themselves in those situations that encourage one to be outgoing. It is not easy in any way, but I do think it can be done.