How many of you, moms and dads both, have a personal public-relations program? While you’re thinking, we’ll answer for you in this way … and so does your teen. Take heed, mom. You can’t jab an elbow in your husband’s ribs this time around and tell him to perk up and listen. This one is for both of you—and for your children.
Each and every one of us has a personal public-relations program. Every time we walk out of our house, our public relations program kicks into gear. When we drive down the freeway or buy a newspaper, our personal pr program is in full swing. People are watching us, hearing us and forming perceptions of us by how we act and react in the world around us.
Perception is indeed reality. The waiter in the restaurant may not know you, but he is forming impressions of you. As the customer, you’re doing the same thing. Is your waiter friendly? Is he dressed appropriately? Does he speak in complete and intelligible sentences? Is he attentive … courteous … thorough? The quality of this brief encounter will largely determine if you will ever eat at that restaurant again. Your perception of your waiter, even though you do not know him, affects your opinion of that restaurant and becomes your reality. We form judgments like that all the time.
One Look Can Make the Difference
So, mom and dad, it would be a good idea to impart this notion to your teenager. Like it or not, teens, too, have a personal public-relations program. Yes, it does matter how your son dresses for a job interview. The way your daughter sits in class does send a certain message to the teacher. How your teen acts when hanging out with friends does reveal a lot about character. The way your daughter walks into the room does announce loudly and clearly if she is happy to be there or would rather be anywhere else.
If your son is interviewing for a sales job with Black and Tozer’s Men’s Wear and he is slouched in his chair, chewing gum, mumbling responses, or wearing his pants off his rear, he will flunk the interview. Your son may be a wonderful young man. He may have many fine qualities. But we already know enough about him to know that he won’t be working for us. His personal pr program needs adjusting.
In our work, we have seen a lot of papers written by college students. Without our knowing the author of every paper, it’s quite natural to form an opinion about the writer simply based on his or her writing. Imagine if it were a poorly written job resume, cover letter, or scholarship application.
Teenagers as well as parents need to know that from the moment they rise and shine and head off to life, they are creating perceptions of who and what they are—perceptions that will stick.