So, I was just hit in the face with a damp, heavy, cold fish.
I was up at 4 this morning taking photos at the beach and I was greeted by one of the least spectacular sunrises ever.
I was up at 4am because I couldn’t sleep.
I couldn’t sleep because I was hit in the face with a fish.
Not literally, although I think that may have been more pleasant than the reality.
The wet fish was in the form of some ‘feedback’ that pretty much brought me right back down to earth with a thud. Because I was living on a bit of high for a while there. Life’s a rollercoaster, right?
So, this is the story and it does relate to personal branding, I promise:
I’ve been preaching, writing & questioning people about the experience other people have of them. Which is essentially what your personal brand is i.e. what other people think of you. It comes down to wanting your personal brand to attract an ideal audience who like and trust you. I often describe this as what people say about you when you leave the room.
One of the methods I talk about using is to ask people who know you, in varying aspects of your life, what adjectives or phrases they would use to describe you. This is a great way of getting feedback – but I doubt you’ll get anything negative. These people probably don’t want any kick back from anything they say that might hurt your feelings. So, generally you’ll get all the lovely feedback that you like to here about all your positive traits. Which is all good! You know what you do well and it leaves you feeling good about yourself. You may also strive to be even more of what you’ve been told you are.
However, if you haven’t been hit by a damp, stinky fish lately, you may not realise some of the traits you have that are giving you a less positive personal brand than is ideal.
I found out, from someone online doing the same photography course as I am, that what I felt were helpful, clever, constructive comments – with more positives than negatives - were in fact coming across as rude and non-constructive. I am seen as a know-it-all who thinks they’re the tutor and does not care about others’ feelings.
Even typing this is bringing all the shock, hurt and despair back up again.
There were a few different reactions over the last 24 hours and some of them were rather non-productive such as wanting to creep back to bed, curl up and never go online again and therefore not complete my diploma (that was an extreme one!). Another was defensiveness and attack. ’Who’s the rude one? I’d never tell anyone that! She’s just doesn’t get it and can’t understand the instructions!” etc etc.
The one I’m settling on between small bouts of anger and despair is the choice to use this as a lesson. It was a chance to get some pretty clear and honest feedback from someone who hasn’t met me before. And it is actually essential that I have this audience on my side and helping me, because I need them for their images for me to comment on and their comments on my images for my assignments. I also just have this thing of wanting people to like me :-(
And this is where this slimy, wet fish story relates to personal branding.
If you are unaware of how you unintentionally turn your ideal audience off or even that you actually have, like me, then it’s a blessing when someone goes out of their way to give you this feedback, as much as it sucks and it kicks you in the guts. Afterall, there’s no point getting defensive or shutting up shop because who loses in that scenario? You! And also, all the people whose lives would have benefited from your products, services or influence lose too. Your ideal audience can make a pretty quick decision around whether they like you or not so it’s worth doing things with a bit more thought. You need them!
I have since gone out of my way when on the phone, writing emails, or comments and even talking to my family to think about my tone and the effect it may have on people and the way they treat me in return. I think about my desire for everyone to do things ‘the right way’ and the belief that I know ‘the right way’ and I’ve certainly realised that this is repelling a lot of people. I’ve even seen this behaviour in my daughter and thought it has scared some friends away. A conversation with a photographer friend recently also jogged me into rethinking this unconscious habit of mine when she said that one of the things that makes her angry is people who believe there is only one right way! How appropriate.
Another huge lesson is that, in this online environment, your words can be taken and misconstrued in so many ways. You can’t put a tone into your words so it’s almost like you need to go very far out of your way to use the language that is going to portray your message and feelings correctly. I may go so far as to put emojis into every sentence just to make sure 😊.
Aaah, so many life lessons!
Learning and growing and thinking about your personal brand is not a bad thing and sometimes we have to be slapped with a fish to get the point of really considering how we come across to those we want to connect positively with.
Have a great day and enjoy the photo of the unspectacular sunrise my friends.