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Impression Management: Disrespect Goes a Long Way

I have wanted to post something on this topic for awhile but have procrastinated because I like to focus on more positive topics whenever possible. However, I am making myself write about it because disrespect is such an important thing to consider when developing relationships on a college campus or in a professional environment. It is important to engage in self-reflection and to monitor how your fellow students, teaching assistants, faculty members, and other campus staff members are perceiving your behavior. It might not be right, but the cold, hard truth is that our reputations tend to travel with us, and the world of professionals is very small. Just consider the following:

That person who was walking by while you were yelling on the phone to put someone in their place over in the financial aid office might be a faculty member or administrator who will remember the observation.

That faculty member or teaching assistant who bores you out of your mind might not say anything to you when you roll your eyes/read a novel in class/surf the Internet or social media/do your homework for another class/sit with your back turned/skip class entirely/send an irate email to give them a piece of your mind, but they could very well end up on the committee that reviews your grad school application, your scholarship application, or just informally know another person on campus who you would actually like to work with. They won't be able to share many positive impressions.

Those students who are part of your project team/group and who you are rude to because you think you know more than them just might get fed up and complain to the faculty member. You also might end up working in the same place in the future, and they may let their negative interactions with you be known to everyone else there.

That faculty member standing nearby who you are ignoring while you are complaining about another faculty member (maybe even calling them a derogatory name) might not say anything, but they might remember you when your name comes up for consideration for an opportunity on campus or for an organization they are connected to in the community.

That faculty member who initially plans to provide you with a glowing recommendation for an opportunity on campus or in the community might be shocked when in casual conversation about how great you are to another colleague that colleague tells them you never come to their class or are rude to them (or their teaching assistant).

Now, please don't get me wrong. We all have said and done things that we regret--faculty members and other university staff included. No one is perfect. However, it's best to try to minimize these behaviors as much as possible and to recognize and take responsibility for the fact that your behaviors can affect your reputation in an educational or professional setting. A chronically problematic or rude student might have one of the highest grades in the class (maybe), but chances are there are others who have high grades and who have better people skills. Those are the people who tend to excel most often both inside and outside of the classroom in the long run.


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