Sometimes we go about our business and don’t think about if others are paying attention or not. Generally, not many people notice us or our behaviors. But sometimes we’re being observed and, unbeknownst to us, admired. We are unwitting role models. Or even held to a higher status than we believe we have.
This became apparent from a brief conversation I had during my recent speaking tour in Turkey. In between engagements, I hung out at my friend Tamer Ozdemir’s English Test School in Eskisehir. I got to know the English teachers there, including a young Turkish man named Aykuk. After a week of visiting with him and his students and his hearing of my speaking engagements in Turkey and beyond, we had this exchange:
Aykuk: This week I’ve met one of my goals.Me: Congratulations! What is the goal?Aykuk: To meet a celebrity.Me: How cool! Who’d you meet?Aykuk: You!
I almost fell off my chair laughing. “Aykuk, I’m not a celebrity so you need to keep that on your goal list.”
But I was to him. He’d never met an author, nor someone who’d been on Oprah, 60 Minutes and in the national Turkish newspaper. These amounted to celebrity status to him.
So while I don’t consider myself a celebrity, I was in his eyes.
I believe that optimally we should behave as if we are a role model, even when we know no one is looking. When we encounter a problem with someone, choosing our response by asking ouselves how we’d react if a special child were watching us. We want to be someone s/he looks up to and admires, which then shapes our behavior.
But even in non-confrontational situations, our behavior telegraphs our character to others we have no idea are paying attention. We have influence on their future behavior by being a role model. And yet we may never know.
Have you experienced watching someone you admire to determine how you’d behave in future situations? Have you ever been surprised to learn you were a role model? Tell us your story.