Are You Creating Your Own Bad Reputation?

What’s your attitude? Are you the type of person that takes everything as it comes and thinks, “To each his own”? Or are you the sort to get indignant, light on fire and go around smacking people when they’ve insulted you?

If you’re in the latter group, you could be costing yourself work.

Reputations spread quickly, both good and bad. We create a mental image and carry it with us wherever we go. People take note and pay attention to this image. They act on it, too. Are you sure that the image you display is the one you really want to show off?

Sometimes, we unwittingly misbrand ourselves. A stray heated comment on a blog labels us quickly as a problem writer. Just one poorly worded sentence creates conflict, and we’re seen as an instigator.

It happens that quickly, and the reputation you create for yourself can have a serious impact on your business. The way people perceive you can affect your ability to succeed in life.

Are you funny and jovial? Then people will most likely cleave to you, from peers who look up to you to professionals who want to hire you. Are you high and mighty? You might draw in some people who share your beliefs and create a bit of debate, but you’ll also drive away plenty of people who could have helped you get ahead.

Those people could have been valuable assets to your writing career. They could have been great network contacts, partners for joint ventures or even employers. They could have provided you with the income you wanted or the projects that boosted your notoriety.

If they think you’re a problem writer, they’ll pick someone else. And you miss out.

Why waste these opportunities? Before you write that comment on a blog, before you hit ‘send’ on an email, before you interact with anyone at all, think of the image you want to create, and make sure you’re conveying the right one for success.

Because undoing a poor reputation involves far more work than creating a good one from the start.

It’s your turn. Have you ever said something you wished you hadn’t and then had to undo the damage? Did a heated moment ever cost you a gig? Did you ever meet someone that you didn’t like, only to find out that once you got to know them, they were a completely different person?






8 responses
  1. The Burnman Avatar

    Interesting point, but I have to disagree.

    In some of the conversations I have had on this site related to the change over to a “blog network” and the need to care for SEO, one of the positions placed before me was that people are more concerned with writing from the heart is more important than writing for SEO.

    Are you actually arguing that writers should keep their opinions to themselves??

    I believe that it is the opinions which we express, not those we keep to ourselves, which shape the landscape. If I am to be viewed in a negative light for posting a comment disagreeing with an author, so be it. If I think an article contains incorrect, unethical, questionable, or offensive material, you better believe I will post a comment stating just that.

    One of the issues many authors face when they venture into the realm of blogging, is the immediate reaction they may receive when they post an article or express an opinion. This isn’t like writing a newspaper article, a book, or a piece for a magazine. You will get an immediate, and sometimes very nasty reaction to a blog post. Usually, the same percentage of people who read an article in a newspaper will like or dislike it as those who read it online. But it is a whole heck of a lot easier to respond on the Internet.

    As writers, we should be less worried about keeping our opinions to ourselves, and more worried about expressing ourselves responsibly. We have to take responsibility for what we write, so we should always think before we submit, but that does not mean that we should be silent in our dissent. That would be disingenuous.

  2. James Chartrand Avatar

    @ Burnman – I don’t think I wrote anywhere in my post, “Keep your opinions to yourself.” The message is much more, “Don’t be an ass when you have something to say.” Do you not feel the same?

  3. The Burnman Avatar

    @ James – Whether or not someone is “being an ass” is a matter of personal perception. If I come across an article which I disagree with, like yours here for example, I may feel compelled to share my opinion. In doing so, will it make it more difficult for you and I to work out some sort of business arrangement in the future? Perhaps, but that won’t prevent me from expressing my point of view.

    Some people have a hard time dealing with dissent on any level, and automatically assume criticism is an act of aggression. Some people have the good grace to take it all in stride, and understand that this is the Internet, and sometimes harsh criticism is par for the course.

    As I stated in my comment above, I believe people should be responsible when they comment/post and think before submitting, but I do not believe people should avoid stating their opinions because of a fear that someone might not like what they have to say.

    I am who I am, and my opinions aren’t going to change to suit every potential business arrangement that may or may not come pop up. I will continue to write and comment in a manner which suits my conscience and personality. If that means I won’t land a gig that I could have by keeping my proverbial mouth shut, so be it. At least I am being honest with myself and my readers about who I am and what I stand for. That is far more important to me, and I do just fine as is.

    Thank you for your reply, and I hope you have a happy holiday season!

  4. Michelle Kafka Avatar

    I don’t regret what I have said on blog comments or in e-mails because I always remember the “big picture.” There will be alot of other people commenting and I don’t want to come off as sounding like a b. I always try to be as polite as I can and if I disagree then I disagree. Sometimes I will post constructively I disagree and other times I won’t say a thing and move on to other posts, blogs, or e-mails.

    I pretty much like most posts or blogs because I can always learn something new or valuable I didn’t know before.

    As for people in the real world… perhaps I have had thought differently after actually meeting and talking with them. Not on the Internet though because I read and re-read all the words carefully. I also check the bios or about pages, etc, which seems much easier to do.

  5. James Chartrand Avatar

    @ TheBurnman – I agree with what you say. I posted recently on my own blog about how people attack out because they’re still in the “victim” mindset and cannot look inside as to why they make this attack in the first place.

    In many cases, they automatically assume criticism is negative and to be defended against.

    But again, you and I are agreeing. I haven’t said anywhere that people shouldn’t share their opinions. In fact, I personally welcome opinions.

    My post refers to people who come off as lofty, condescending, snotty, above all this and generally nasty. In most cases, those people are *commonly* seen as nasty by all, not just by one. You know the ones.

    It’s important to let our values and beliefs shine, agreed. It’s also important not to use them as a pitchfork. You do well on both, which is very cool.

    And happy holidays to you too!

  6. JLG Avatar

    I enjoy reading James’ posts as well as that of Burnman’s. I learned so much from their posts.

    Both of them are espousing the same sensible ideas. And as I see it, there’s really no contradicting issue here.

    James is saying that when you post,concentrate on ideas and issues involve. Avoid attacking personalities and stick to issues. James cautions us that when we post, we should make sure to be polite about it.

    Sort of disagreeing without being disagreeable.

    I believe Burnman is saying the same thing. He is very passionate about posting what’s on his mind. Burnman said that when he gives his opinions on posts, it’s what he feels deep inside about the issue. He does not post just for the sake of agreeing so he can ” bag” possible future ” favors”.

    He posts what he thinks on the issue. Burnman does’nt really give a hoot what others think about his views. ( A fact which most writers in this forum can relate to).

    So I guess these two gentlemen are saying the same thing, only that they worded it somewhat differently.

  7. Phil Avatar


    You make excellent points. I do some PR writing, and that teaches the importance of an “impression.” Of course, there are times people read things into copy or just misunderstood what’s written.

    On “opinion” items, sometimes the purpose of the writing is to generate commentary. But, as you mention, the opinions will create impressions among readers, clients and prospects.

    I also believe that readers will have a better impression of the writing, even if taking a stance, if one gives at least a little credence to the other side of the argument:

    For example, an item you and I have discussed a little via e-mail and one I have some very strong opinions on: “Health care in the U.S. is in need of serious repair. It’s the only G-7 country without nationalized health care. {for credence).

    “Now there are some drawbacks from some of these nationalized systems…(give examples)…Then follow up with the rest of the “serious repair argument.”

  8. James Chartrand - Men with Pens Avatar

    @ Phil – That’s the perfect example. You catch more flies with honey – a calm tone, backup and a sane attitude – than you do with manure – a hotheaded, knee-jerk, emotional response.

    What’s even more interesting is that with honey, you get more people to listen and think 🙂

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