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 — every one of you, and so do your teenagers.
I may not know you, but ...
All of us have a personal public-relations program. Every time we walk out of our house, our public-relations program kicks into gear. 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. If we look over at you on the road and you're texting while driving or cutting in and out of traffic at a high speed, we don't know you — but we think you're a fool. You may be a wonderful person, but all we see is someone who is risking the lives of everyone on the road. In our book, that makes you a fool.
If we hear you being loud and obnoxious in a restaurant and others have a hard time carrying on polite conversation, sorry, we're gonna label you a jerk. We don't know you — and we don't want to know you.
If we watch your young children as they holler and run wildly in the grocery store, knocking over a display or two, we might perceive you to be an irresponsible parent whose children are probably out of control most of the time. We will take any other aisle in the store to avoid you and your brood.
Impressions are indelible.
It works both ways. The server in the restaurant may not know you, but he is forming impressions of you. Are you treating him politely? Are you helping her feel at ease with a friendly smile? Are you speaking clearly when ordering? On the other hand, is your server dressed appropriately? Does he speak in complete and intelligible sentences? Is she courteous and attentive?
The quality of this brief encounter will largely determine if you will ever eat there again. Your perception of your server becomes your attitude toward that restaurant. We form judgments like that all the time.
You are what you say — and do.
Teenagers have a personal public-relations program. Yes, it does matter how your son dresses for a job interview. The way he sits in class does send a certain message. 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. And it might reflect the level of confidence she has, or doesn't have, in herself.
Teenagers, as well as parents, need to know that from the moment they rise and shine, they are creating perceptions of who and what they are — perceptions that will stick.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.