You have all heard it when flying:

“In case there is a loss in cabin pressure, yellow oxygen masks will deploy from the ceiling compartment located above you. Please secure your own mask before assisting others around you”.

Securing your own oxygen supply first before helping others might seem selfish but it really isn’t. Think about it. If you help other people first then you are going to be without all that helpful oxygen. While breathing the rarefied air of the depressurised airliner you will be getting more and more oxygen deficient. That means: dizzy, disorientated and panicky – Not the best state to be in in an emergency.

How many people are you going to be able to help before you start to make bad decisions and then slip into unconsciousness and so need help yourself?

However, if you put you put your oxygen mask on first, you can then spend as much time as is necessary helping other people. Even if they are dizzy or have slipped into unconsciousness you can still put a mask over their face and secure it and they will probably suffer no long term ill effects.

Now this post isn’t about airline safety. My point is that maintaining your capability and your strength isn’t necessarily selfish. It is about being able to perform well and help people to the best of your ability.

This extends to your reputation too. The generally accepted wisdom is that you should not pay too much attention to people who are overly negative or people who are negative to score points. The sayings affirm things like “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me” and “Hard work is its own reward”.

Drawing a line
However, I think there is a distinction to be made here: I believe that you shouldn’t let other people’s negativity get you down but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something about that negativity. I believe that you should take pleasure from a job well done but that doesn’t mean if someone else tries to take credit for that work that you should not do something about it.
It is very easy to let things affecting our reputation go as we are constantly told that substance not appearance is what is important. But perception IS important. If someone else takes credit for your work then they gain in reputation and therefore influence. That dishonest co-worker who has just done you out of the credit for your good work, has gained greater influence for the future. You can be sure that in the future, he/she won’t suddenly develop a conscience and use that extra influence for the good of the group.

A similar thing is true for the negativity. If the only voice being heard is the perpetually negative one then it will have an effect. Even if other people know that the person is habitually negative and compensate for that a bit their minds are still being focused on the negatives of your idea.

It is easy to think that a great idea will speak for itself but that is rarely true. People need to be persuaded. Howard H. Aiken once said “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” If you don’t strongly advocate your ideas then that great idea might not get acted upon. Opportunities will be missed.
When it comes to defending your reputation or your ideas, don’t feel you are being petty. Don’t feel guilty. Do something about it.