The Stealth Approach to Image Rehab

by Jermaine

undercover agent t shirtHave you ever wanted to change the way people view you without changing who you are? I have. Why? Honestly, I’m not the most outgoing person in the world. I’m also not the most spontaneous. Don’t get me wrong, I love who I am and have no intentions of “pretending” to be something that I’m not. However, I know that the way I’m perceived by others plays a huge role in what they expect out of me.

If I’m not careful, in the minds of many, I am easy to typecast: The quiet guy who loves his immediate family and keeps to himself. That’s me, but not all of me. I don’t care who you are, being labeled and shoved away neatly into a corner, with no wiggle room for growth, is no fun. I believe we all should fight labels and norms. We don’t need to be categorized. There is only one person to compare you to and that “you” is constantly changing!

So how did I rehab my image with the people I see the most without ruffling any feathers or stirring a wake the fact that this was a conscious effort? Simple step by simple step… These three easy steps were the foundation to a revitalization that I always wanted but didn’t know was possible. 

STEP ONE: Self-awareness

If you are anything like me, it is easy to fall asleep on how you are perceived by others. If one wants to begin the assessment process they have to take some time to find out exactly where they are. Without explicit questions, allow everyday situations to play out for approximately a week. Make mental notes. When you get the opportunity to get away from the crowd jot all of the facts you uncover down. At the end of the week, take a long hard view at what you find.

Personal Examples:

My daughter expects me to do bedtime stories and put her to bed. She always asks her mom if she wants food or juice. She generally wants to play with my wife even when my wife is doing homework. In short, she views my wife as the “fun” parent and me as the disciplinarian and bedtime guy.

STEP TWO: Little Surprises

Now that you’re armed with a weeks worth of other people’s expectations of you, start to break your cycle of norms. Warning: Don’t do a radical change from one week to another. This would do two things:

(1) Alert them of your efforts to change.

(2) Potentially create unrealistic expectations that cannot be sustained. Instead, gradually slide in activities and conversations that are healthy, comfortable, and refreshing. Also take this opportunity to flash your “other side.”

Personal Examples:

I pulled a fast one on my daughter. I purposely got her all of the things she wanted for a day. I watched “How to Train Your Dragon” with her and rocked out as the credits rolled. We laughed, sang, danced, and giggled. She was literally out of breath when we finished.  A couple days later we ran laps in the living room around the couch and the kitchen table. Two more days later I brought her home new books. All this happened in the course of a week. By Saturday my daughter was just a little more excited to see me walk through the door when I came home from work.

STEP THREE: Confidence & Curiosity

It may be impossible to overstate how important curiosity is in building and sustaining healthy relationships. Curiosity also is a key technique to the secrecy of your transformation.

Personal Example:

I ask my daughter more and more “what do you want to do?” Take my word for it, even a four year old has a preference. By being confidently and curious about what she wants I learn so much more than if I assume I already know. It also ensures that she knows I care about her opinions.

This entire process has turned the relationship I have with my daughter upside down. Just imagine what these steps can do for you in your romantic relationships, place of work, or any other social group that you are a part of. Take my advice: life is far more fun outside of the box than in it!

(I’ve used this technique recently in many spears of my life, however, I only share how it has impacted my relationship with my four year old daughter because if the post told all the other areas I engaged these techniques then it would no longer be “stealth.)