By Yvonne Milosevic
“A good reputation is more valuable than money.”
This quote comes courtesy of Publilius Syrus, the Latin writer born in 85 B.C. Flashforward 2,000-plus years, and his assessment still holds water. People’s opinion of us affects not only our social status; it can also have a significant impact on our careers. We’d all like to think we have a good reputation. But is that really always the case? Can we change or improve the way others see us? Absolutely, according to two Stanford GSB communication experts.
In this episode of the Stanford GSB’s podcast Think Fast Talk Smart, Matt Abrahams and Allison D. Kluger weigh in on ways to manage your reputation. Kluger, a lecturer in management, defines “reputation” in the most poetic way possible.
“Reputation is the echo that proceeds you into a room and the echo that remains after you leave.”
Amplify that echo
If you want to bolster your reputation or make changes to improve it, consistency and awareness are the two pillars of focus. The question we need to ask then, “is what we’re putting out there being perceived the way we intend?” says Kluger. “If there’s not a match up, then you’re kind of in trouble.”
People need to be mindful about how they want others to think about them, says Abrahams. That self-reflection process starts with a clear statement of purpose: “Here’s how I want people to see me, or here’s what I stand for,” he explains.
The same goes for your online reputation. It should reflect your in-person personality and beliefs in a consistent way. When you routinely telegraph your values through the kind of posts you create and share, you reaffirm people’s impression of you.
On the other hand, “if you’re posting very kind of wacky things that aren’t consistent, people won’t really get a sense of you,” Kluger warns, adding, “People are so quick to judge or create a fixed bias or a negative bias.”
What if you want to change your reputation?
Sometimes, we gain a reputation for some of our less-than-desirable traits. For example, we all have that friend or coworker (or, ahem, you?) who is always late. “If the buzz is like, ‘Oh my God, we have to call the meeting 10 minutes earlier every time because she’s always late.’ How do you change that kind of reputation? You set your alarm, and you get there 10 minutes early every time,” Kluger says.
Maybe you’re known as a gossip or a complainer, or not considered a team player. Whenever you need to create a new reputation to course-correct some of your less desirable traits, Kluger says that the first step to change is becoming more mindful and deliberate about adopting new behaviors.
Finally, Kluger and Abrahams note that trust is a massive component of reputation. “It’s really important to create trust with people and to either repair your reputation or make sure your reputation stays positive,” Kluger explains. “If I come to you and I’m expecting something, and you don’t deliver it, I’m going to just reevaluate you in the moment, right?”
It’s frustrating when people don’t see us how we think they should. But getting defensive isn’t the answer. When that happens, you need to let go of your ego and examine why they perceive you as they do. To truly change people’s minds, plan on going above and beyond to deliver on the image you want to project. While you can’t transform your reputation overnight, it’s more than possible to turn the tide with time.