Heresy you might say. That was said a short dozen years ago when most considered the statement “image is substance” deceptive. After all, image is a superficial thing, isn’t it?
Absolutely not! In reality, image is a reflection of what exists inside. A personal image is shown by many, many different things that a person does – what they say, how they act, how they look – each of these things count. It is unfortunate that the word has such a bad connotation – probably brought about by those who would manipulate action and behavior in a deceptive way to accomplish a certain end.
These thoughts were triggered by a comment in A Passion for Excellence where Tom Peters said, “Perception is everything.” This is true in the impact a corporation has just as it is in personal impact, so long as the perception reflects a true reality beneath the surface.
In considering our personal communication, the image we project under pressure is perhaps the most critical. That’s why it is critically important to be aware of what that image is. Meg Greenfield said it best in Newsweek when speaking of our “knowledge’ of our leaders in the public eye: “We watch them intermittently and from afar, inferring from only a relatively few gestures and reactions what kind of people they are and whether they should be in charge. Much depends on our intuition and their ability at a handful of opportune moments to project qualities we admire and respect.”
Image is substance. Whatever message we are delivering rides the river of credibility established by those thousand little things that make up the image of our substance.