Do you know what the most contagious disease is in Britain today, one that’s sweeping the nation and getting worse with every generation? It’s not flu. It’s not chicken pox. It’s not even the common cold*. It’s TMI - Too Much Information – and left unchecked it can cause more damage than any of those medical conditions…especially to your personal brand. Let me give you an example:
- A friend was recently sitting at work, eating his sandwich, when a colleague at a nearby desk loudly announced she was off for her smear test. His face took on the expression of the guy in the picture and the rest of his sandwich went untouched.
- Which was a similar expression to the one I had the day I opened my boss’s calendar on Outlook to set up a meeting (everyone who reported to her had access) and saw an appointment labelled ‘Bikini wax’.
- Or the time I read a string of updates on LinkedIn from someone who had automatically linked it to their Twitter feed, which charted the progress of her drunken night out with the girls…in lurid detail.
In each case the person had given no thought to the line that exists between revealing a bit of your personal life to show you’re human and revealing things that conjour up a picture of you in others’ minds they’d prefer not to have.
(Especially if it involves you lying on your back with your legs akimbo!)
Now, I’m an advocate of offering people a bit of personal with your brand, but as I’ve clearly set out in a previous blog, it should be done with forethought; work out what your personal brand is and which aspects of your life provide positive clues to that, then share those. I readily mention I keep bees and chickens as it gives people a softer perception of me than if they just see the stronger, more direct clues like my bright red lipstick and nail polish. But there’s plenty of things I don’t mention because I know they go too far over the line. (No, I’m not going to tell you when I’m due for a bikini wax!)
But as the generations pass and technology makes sharing information easier, people’s senses for what is and isn’t acceptable have been dulled. To see what I mean you’ve only got to look at pictures on Facebook of drunken graduates flashing their body parts or vomiting in the street…the same graduates who are looking for their first job and trying to portray themselves as responsible adults. But it’s not just the youngsters who are doing it – the lady with the smear test is in her late 30s.
So when you’re going about your business today perhaps a bit of self-auditing is in order: listen to yourself, read what you write, and think about the perception you could be creating in other people’s minds. Because if the result is someone whose face looks as horrified as the guy above, you know you’ve just given TMI.
What’s the worst case of TMI you’ve experienced – either that you’ve done or that you’ve received? I’d love to get lots of comments on this one so get typing below…we could all do with a laugh!
*Well, it probably is one of those, but I was using artistic licence to make a point.