Monday, February 16, 2009

Veneer or Solid Wood?

I caught part of an author interview on the radio yesterday. This very articulate woman said that one thing she'd learned in her "20 years on the street" was that how people perceived you affected how they treated you.

Well, yes, certainly. I felt badly about the mistreatment I imagined her experiencing, despite her excellent communication skills. A person's appearance is considered by others, and conclusions are drawn regarding such qualities as honesty, reliability, strength, maturity, approachability, education, and potential value. If a person looks poor or insecure or untrustworthy, strangers will keep their distance.

The radio interview brought me up short after a few moments when the host referred to the author's long career on Wall Street. Oh. That Street.

Okay, so Carla Harris is a businesswoman with more than a briefcase full of professional experience, and she has probably never been homeless. But still, her point about perceptions is excellent.

Ms. Harris went on to caution that whatever quality you'd like to be known for, you'd better be practicing that quality all. the. time. No breaks. For example, if you want people to think of you as having integrity, you must always maintain highest-level integrity. One slip will have greater prominence in their memories than the ten times you acted rightly.

When you get scratched like a piece of furniture, does the veneer come off or is there solid wood that can be sanded and refinished? The photo illustration is a detail of a sideboard that has been in my family for a hundred years. There is some veneer, but its heart is real wood. Solid. Enduring.

How important is it to establish and maintain a good reputation? It takes effort and consistency. More effort, more consistency. Is it worth it?

He who walks in integrity walks securely,
But he who perverts his ways will be found out.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this post. Very thought provoking.