How Do You Want To Be Perceived?

Last year I wrote a post titled What Message Are You Trying To Project where I talked about things people do in public to try to get you to do something they want you to do and how those actions can be perceived in a negative light even if your intention is otherwise. It seems that I’m compelled to write on this subject again, this time concerning something I saw online. I’m not going to link to it because, well, you’ll see as I go on.

I came upon a post that someone shared on Twitter. The guy who wrote the post was complaining because Google Plus had removed the image he’d put up of himself. Their issue was that he had his middle finger sticking out in front of him and considered it objectionable based on the standards they’ve created for the site. His gripe was that he felt their standards were petty, that he had freedom of speech, and while he was at it he stated how much he hated that G+ forces people to use their real names.

I’d say it was an interesting rant, but for a different reason. What I can’t figure out is why someone would want to go to a site like G+ and put up an image of themselves that immediately projects themselves in a negative light. In my opinion, the picture makes the guy look like a jerk. The image I saw made me think this was a guy I’d never want to meet or talk to, and if he had a business of any sort I’d never even think about working with him or asking him to provide any services for me.

Of course my perception is probably incorrect but that’s not the point. The point is that my first impression of the guy is that he’s a jerk. You know the old saw that you only get one chance to make a first impression? And this guy happens to be fairly connected; he runs a venture capitalist company and writes for TechCrunch as well. This isn’t a dumb guy by any means.

How many times have I written about the topic of influence and consequences on this blog? I take those things seriously. If I decide to be controversial, I do so in a certain way because I know how I want to be perceived, even if I don’t always care if someone agrees with me at those moments. Being perceived as a radical or as a complainer because of a rant, I don’t mind. Deliberately putting up an image that’s antagonistic before anyone’s had an opportunity to know more about me… nope, not me.

Still, maybe the old ways aren’t always the best (no, I’m not really believing that in this instance) so maybe I’m not seeing it as someone else might in today’s world. What say you on something like this?

24 thoughts on “How Do You Want To Be Perceived?”

  1. For the most part, people in business project the right image. Then there are the outliers mentioned in your post. This is the very reason why your message is germaine to a niche of folks that don’t have a clue. Being different is one thing. Being too cute is another. The Star Trek pic falls into the latter category.

    1. Thanks Steve, and I’d agree that most business owners do seem to project a much better image of themselves. But I’m also noticing that some better known personalities seem to be taking on a harder edge these days, trying to act “younger” and connect with a younger crowd, and it’s disturbing to me.

  2. I think it’s never appropriate to be controversial for business people. It turns off potential customers.

    1. Ted, I don’t think it always turns people off to be controversial, but it does depend on why someone’s decided to court controversy. Standing up for a cause that makes you controversial is one thing; if you can’t be honest about your beliefs, within reason, then you’re not human. Being deliberately antagonistic by sticking your middle finger out in a profile that’s supposed to represent you is a very bad business move because that might be the first time someone’s ever seen or heard of you.

  3. Ted, I think it’s fine to be edgy. If you sound and look like everyone else it means you’re not that interesting. Clients want someone that has there own opinion. However in the case of the Star Trek pic, that person should have slept on it before posting.

    1. Steve, I need to make a clarification for you. The Star Trek picture is one I posted here; that’s not the picture the other guy had on G+. He had a picture with his middle finger up; the Star Trek picture is just one I’ve used for this particular post as an addition to my commentary on what the other guy did. I actually love this picture since I remember the episode it’s from.

  4. That’s how they get their attention. And the fact that google removed their image only brought more attention to them.

    1. At least it gave him something to write about Jim, and it’s amazing that there were a lot of people that sided with him against Google. Then again, most people don’t go to other blogs to disagree with folks on purpose I guess.

  5. I don’t think that kind of picture like this is radical, probably childish, as usually kids in first years of high school are taking that kind of photographs. Well, may be if you are frontman of rock bad this is the perfect way, I used to promote my music long ago, top naked with microphone and cigarette. Right now, I do it with photograph with 69 on my scull, which actually is nothing to do with the “position”, but with the balance.
    I have had a similar conversation with my psychologist several years ago which is not that similar but there is some semantics. It was related about conversation with people on the airplane, which is semantic to social networks. As we don’t know many of our social friends in person. So my point there was that conversation on airplane is going very easy and it is always interesting. My psychologist point was that on airplane there is no connection with “ground” and I don’t know the passengers personally, quite often their alter ego appear and even they are shy and telling little lies at the end only positive things are thought. Well on social networks, you can see it and think first, as visual stimulation is more powerful than verbal one, that why I personally understand your reaction.

    1. Carl, it’s rare that I talk to people on airplanes; not really all that sure why. I’ve certainly had some interesting encounters, including the woman who thought her doll was a real baby and kept looking at me with hate in her eyes because I wouldn’t let her doll have my seat. lol

      Actually, the picture of the guy with his middle finger in front of his face is kind of radical for what one would perceive as a site being used for both business and networking purposes. What would you think a person is saying if that’s the first encounter you have with him and you know nothing else about him? Maybe it’s different where you live but in the U.S. that doesn’t go over very well for business purposes, and only like minded people will even find it funny.

      1. Haha, yeah I think most people doesn’t do that, there was a period in my life when I’ve had more flights that using taxi or any other kind of transport. Well, I must admit that that was long ago, right now everybody is looking at personal touch screen player and don’t bother talking, however there is always a possibility to start conversation.

        I don’t really think that this is accepted anywhere in the world, nor in business or personal. I personally would report that kind of photo immediately.

  6. When I comment or write a blog post, I try to remember that ANYONE anywhere can see what I write. It reflects on my as a professional, could be seen by clients or potential clients or by my children and their friends. I want the people I know to be pleased to be associated with me. When I’ve written potentially challenging things I ask myself “Would I say this in public?” and “Do I stand by this opinion?” If yes, then I post it. If in doubt, I edit.

    Someone like you’ve described – I wouldn’t want them round for dinner, and wouldn’t want to pay them for a service… but they probably wouldn’t be interested in me either!

    1. Sue, I echo your words here. I doubt that anyone who’d find me being somewhat sensitive to that type of thing would want to talk to me for dinner either. Strangely enough, if I saw that on Facebook I probably wouldn’t even think twice about it because Facebook is, well, something entirely different. There’s lots of strange stuff there, and lots of young people who are going to be wondering why they can’t get jobs later on. But I’m with you, if I won’t say it in public then I’m not going to put it out there. Actually, it’s more the “mother” rule; if I can’t say it in front of Mom I won’t put it out there. lol

  7. Hi Mitch. I agree with your take on this. The guy is a jerk. There’s another old saw that pertains. “You can dress up a pig, but it’s still a pig”. It doesn’t matter if this guy is a success or intelligent. He’s still a jerk.


  8. Hi, Mitch. Perception is a funny thing. A picture portraying an intelligent blogger sticking his middle finger may be perceived as inappropriate by some, but would be perceived as bold and assertive by others. You mentioned in your post that you could be wrong about your perception. I don’t think there’s such thing as a wrong perception. In communication, the message is not the one that is sent but the one that is received. If the blogger in question did intend to send out the message that he’s willing to be called a “jerk” for the sake of asserting his opinion about something, then he succeeded in communicating his “inappropriate” message. Just my cents worth. 🙂

    1. That’s a very interesting take Erich. I’m not sure that the majority of people to get away with that one, and obviously this guy couldn’t get away with it on Google+ either. If that’s the way one wants to be portrayed of course it’s their right, but when you expect everybody to acquiesce to it and accept it when you have to know that it going to come across as confrontational is illogical. But as you say, it is all about perception both ways in the end.

      1. Perhaps that was what he initially intended, Mitch. (We’ll probably know more if we had more context.) I guess the lesson to be learned here is that of prudence, especially with blogging. Since perception is tricky, and goodwill is a precious asset to any blogger, it’s wise to be prudent about the image that a blogger wants to project to his/her audience, whether through blog posts, status updates on social networks, avatars, photos, and the like.

      2. Erich, even if that was his intention, that showed me that he was still a jerk, or tends to lean towards being a jerk. At least that’s how I’m seeing it. lol

  9. great pòst, personally i think readers want someone that has there own opinion. However in the case of the Star Trek pic,i do think that person should have slept on it before posting.

  10. That guy was obviously giving a bad impression to most serious people out there but that’s pretty much his business if you ask me. Free speech must be applied, it is what the internet is all about after all.
    But if a guy wants to make a fool of himself, let him.

    1. Actually Cristian, that’s a misnomer. The internet isn’t for free speech unless you “pay” for it. For instance, on your own blog you can say whatever you feel like; on mine you can’t because it’s my money that’s paying for the space. Same with Google; it’s their money so they get to make the rules. That’s how it is for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. In life, the same rule applies; you get to have free speech as long as you’re willing to “pay” for it in some fashion, which means you’re ready to accept the consequences if someone doesn’t like what you have to say or how you say it. That’s just being real. Try going someplace you’re familiar with but don’t really know well, say something insulting to that group of people, and then see if telling them that your having the right to say whatever you feel like keeps you from getting beaten up or possibly killed. lol

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