Being Serious vs Being Taken Seriously
“Why would you ever use that as your profile picture?”
There wasn’t even a trace of sarcasm or concern in her question. It was pure horror. I might as well have been climbing up her chair trying to eat her brain.
“What do you mean? It isn’t a bad picture. I like it.”
We were discussing my choice to use the picture to the left out of all of the beautiful photos from the shoot Melissa Mullen did during my last visit home as my avatar on multiple social profiles.
“You have so many other pictures that look so much better. You aren’t making some weird stupid face.”
“It’s not a weird stupid face. It’s my face. I make that face all the time. In fact, to get that picture the photographer said to me ‘Make the Elisa face.’ I didn’t know what she meant, and she was like ‘Look up in the air and do funny things with your mouth.'” I chuckled at the memory.
“How do you expect anyone to take you seriously when that is your picture? That is the first impression you make, and you look like a joke.”
I stared at the Skype image staring back at me, barely listening as my friend railed on through my headset about the picture.
“I dunno. It’s just me. The other pictures are great, I use them on some of my more professional stuff. But I don’t look like that without a team of highly skilled makeup and hair people and a professional photographer telling me exactly how to position my shoulders and where to point my chin. This is the real me. The person I want people to know.”
“Like I said. No one is going to take you seriously.”
“Well…maybe I’m just not serious. Did you ever think of that?” I launched a verbal assault that was the equivalent of a three-year old hurling their body on the floor to flail and scream until they “won” the argument.
My friend, obviously much more serious and mature than I am, tactfully re-directed the conversation to another subject. I’m fairly certain I saw her avatar roll it’s eyes at me over the audio chat, but I may have been a bit blind with rage.
I zoned out for the last 20 minutes of our conversation, offering Mmmm-hmmms and occasional 7-word replies. We hung up amicably and I was left to sit in the wake of her accusations and their implications.
Was it possible that because I had a rather cheeky profile picture on my Facebook page that people would not take me seriously? Or, more importantly, that they would not think I was serious?
That’s a big problem when your business is built on what people think of you and message. As a writer and editor, clients hire me because they relate to and connect with my writing and voice. If my friend felt like she couldn’t take me seriously, then how would my clients?
As I plan directions and plans for 2013 in business and life, I’ve been replaying this conversation with my friend again and again in my head. Then today, I was listening to the latest Tropical Talk Radio episode on Tropical MBA, I focused on Rob Hanly explaining some of his theories on 5 Sociopathic Tactics.
One of the tactics he reviews is the ‘One-Peg Theory’ – You should always dress one peg above the people you want to influence.
It is important to note I value Rob’s opinion on lots of stuff from my interactions with him on our online forums and on Twitter. I say it is important because you need to know that whenever Rob has something to say about a process or a business practice I take note.
It is also important to note that the first time I met Rob in person, he was wearing a Spiderman costume in a bar.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. He was wearing a Spiderman costume in a bar.
Is that one-peg above the brown cocktail dress I was wearing? In theory, no. But no one remembers my brown cocktail dress, even though it was super cute. People remember Rob’s Spiderman costume. And few of us think less of his opinion because he chose to stand out in a costume in a bar.
The Spiderman costume did NOTHING to diminish how seriously I take him. It did go a long way to confirming that he is not always a serious person.
I am not a serious person.
Sorry if that just hit you like an Acme anvil.
The difference is that I know that I am not a serious person. I write creative pieces about robots and travel sex and unicorns (only occasionally do these overlap in one particular piece) and I would rather perform a personal appendectomy with a used salad spork than write canned corporate copy for a website.
I use exclamation marks and smiley faces and I will not be ashamed!!
(Ok, maybe I’m a little ashamed sometimes)
Yet after two years of working with people I have come to an important conclusion: I don’t want to work with people who are looking for a serious person.
I get what my friend is saying. That in her experience, working in the grown up world of business, she is worried that I will alienate “important business connections” and people won’t take me seriously. That will affect my business and bottom line. And I will end up as a hobo on a street in India with roaming dogs and scraggly ex-yogis scrapping for naan.
That isn’t the case though. There are millions (billions) of people out there in the world. Not everyone is looking for someone to make them sound perfect. Some people understand that perfect is just not a reality to their brand and voice.
Why change myself because of the people who won’t take me seriously cause I have a kind of sassy profile pic?
I’m sure they are lovely people, who volunteer to help kittens and help old women cross the street.
But they are just not the client I am looking for. In fact, they might not be as important a part of my life as I once considered.
I promise, we will hate each other at the end. And hating people takes a LOT of time and energy.
Do you really want to waste time and energy having to hate someone?
There’s a vast difference between being serious and being taken seriously. The latter is far more important when it comes to establishing your trust and reputation. The former is only important if you want to work with people who need you to be serious.
There is a time and place for those people. Just not on my watch.
Photo Credit: Melissa Mullen Photography
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