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Don't I know you?"
Isn't that a question many of us have either asked of someone or someone has asked us that very same question? I think it is a pretty common occurrence, actually. Having spent time at many conferences and business functions as well as out and about in restaurants and social settings, I overhear and observe that very same question happening all around me.
It's that instinctive feeling, maybe somewhere deep in our memory that we have actually met the person before, or we have run into their look-alike or doppelganger at some point in our lives, or perhaps they have run across us at some other time and place.
Now this is a very good thing when someone associates meeting us with a good memory or an honorable action. Something like, "Hey, don't I know you? Aren't you that guy who I saw delivering food and clothing to the homeless shelter?" or "Don't I know you? Weren't you the woman who helped out that family in the grocery store parking lot as that young mom struggled with her groceries and her children?"
"Don't I know you?"
Well maybe you have seen me at my best and you think you know me. But if I was at my worst, you would probably remember me too. That might sound like, "Hey, I remember you, you were that jerk who cut me off at the intersection this morning." Or, "Don't I know you? Aren't you the same person I heard yelling and screaming at your child in the mall yesterday?"
Momentary observations or connections never really allow someone to know who we truly are deep inside. However, our actions and words certainly can influence someone's first impression of us, can't they? I mean, we try not to be judgmental, at least most of us do. But when we see something really powerful or moving, we can't help but judge the action, the event, the outcome, or the person. And we have to remember that people are fairly consistent and predictable. When we see or experience something that is positive or good, we may tell just a few of our family and friends. But when we see something that is really negative, bad, harmful, or unacceptable, we will tell as many people as we possibly can.
Just like McDonald's, or Starbucks, or Nike and other big brand names, we carry with us our own brand too. When people see the Nike "Swoosh" they immediately think, "Just Do It." When people say to us, "Don't I know you?" what should our brand say about us? What should someone remember about us that made our encounter so memorable? Shouldn't it be something powerful, positive, respectable, honorable, good, or kind? I say that because I just can't imagine that any one of us reading this column would prefer to be known as someone who others try to avoid, or is absolutely negative, rude, sad, hard hearted, and even hard-headed.
How about you? Do people know you for who you really are? Or do they just catch a glimpse of you at your worst or at your best? I would love to hear all about it at firstname.lastname@example.org, and when we can understand that our reputation is based on what we have done already, but our character shows others who we really are, it really will be a better than good week.
Michael Norton is a resident of Castle Rock, the former president of the Zig Ziglar Corporation, a strategic consultant and a business and personal coach.
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