The signal we send all-day, everyday
How well does your reputation serve you? Thinking about this should be part of your personal and professional development. We may not realize it, but our daily life is like a radio station and everyone around us is tuning in. They are listening for reasons to trust us.
A reputation for being untrustworthy usually costs us in ways we never even see, because people look elsewhere when they have opportunities to share. It’s not something we’ll hear from people (who enjoys telling someone they can’t be trusted?), but the cost to us is real.
The message we transmit comes, in part, from our actions. Do we do what we said we would do? Are we kind? Are we patient? Do we take criticism well?
But a lot of the radio signal we broadcast comes from our words, too. It’s in the way we talk about things like integrity, respect, and accountability. These moments are often small enough that we don’t even notice them. Have you been annoyed at the inconvenience of someone doing the right thing? Did you use an excuse like “What they don’t know won’t hurt them”? Be careful: these little moments can send a loud message.
What signal are you sending out? When it comes to our trustworthiness, we generally broadcast one of three messages:
- Integrity. People can think of times we spoke up about doing the right thing. They remember a time we paid the price to treat someone else fairly. Because of this, they expect us to treat them fairly, too.
- Cynicism. People can remember a time we cut corners. They felt uncomfortable because we made an excuse for bad behavior. They heard us talk about someone else unkindly, wondering if we talk about them the same way.
- Silence. People genuinely cannot remember a time we made a hard choice. When someone else was suggesting a sketchy idea, we never spoke up. They don’t know much about our integrity, because we never paid the price to protect it.
Notice that #2 and #3 do the same damage to trust. We have to be proactive in our integrity. It’s not something people will assume in our favor.
What can we do to broadcast more integrity, especially in the little moments? It matters because people are always tuning in.
Seeing Good at Work
Because bad news dominates the media, broadcasting good into the world is a choice, not just something that will happen on its own. The Solutions Journalism Network identifies news stories that describe solutions to the world’s problems instead of just talking about the problems themselves.
You’ll be hearing me say this a lot, but the most common misconception about ethics is that it’s just a matter of character. The truth is that good people make ethical mistakes all the time, because it’s more than character. Ethics is a skill.
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