When teens speak and act they send signals. From these signals, people draw conclusions, perceptions about who you are. These perceptions, formed by people your teen may never know, will stick like glue!
I Don’t Know You … and I Already Know You
Perceptions lead to judgments. We all do it. We judge people by appearances, by what they say and how they say it, by how they carry themselves, how they dress, sit, eat, laugh, and talk. We don’t have to know someone to judge and form an opinion. We’re experts at it. Is it fair? Perhaps not. But we think about others according to how we perceive them. Your teen may be a wonderful person, but that nose ring can be a turnoff.
Even Before You Open Your Mouth
A potential employer interviewing your teenage son will be influenced by how he sits in the waiting room even before greetings are made and handshakes are exchanged. If he is slouched in his chair or resting his face in his hand or biting his fingernails, an employer may not be thinking kind and generous thoughts. If your daughter’s hair is hanging in her eyes and she’s dressed for a night at the club, a potential employer may not be impressed. If she’s barely articulating her words because her gum is getting in the way, she will not make the short list.
If your son uses a double negative or punctuates every word with a sniff or starts every sentence with the prefix “uh,” … the, uh, interview will, sniff, be, uh, brief. If your daughter shifts or rocks nervously in her chair, accompanies every shift or rock with a giggle, her competitive edge will be seriously dulled.
If your son’s resume contains misspellings, he might as well keep filling out job applications. He’s fired before he’s hired.
If your daughter sports a tattoo or a purple swath of hair, she’ll have to work to wow in every other category in order to be taken seriously.
It’s Not Fair—and It’s Not Relevant
Nope, it truly isn’t fair. These other people don’t know your teen. Plus isn’t it content rather than impression that counts? Yes, but perception comes before content and makes it hard to overcome. That is why you want image working in your favor. Whether it’s a prospective employer, a new teacher or a potential date’s parent, your first impression may be the only impression.
Teach your teen that as soon as she or he climbs out of bed in the morning, the perception machine shifts into high gear. No, it’s not fair but paying positive attention to perception will make it easier for others to see the good qualities that make your teen terrific.