What Are the Qualities of a Good Reputation, and How Can You Achieve Them?

To understand how to build a good reputation, you first need to know what a “reputation” is. Is it what others think of you? Is it what you think of yourself? Is it important or not? Is someone’s reputation who they really are? Can someone with a lousy reputation be a good person? Can someone with a good reputation be a bad person? If you have a bad reputation, can you ever recover, or will it be set in stone forever?

A helpful way to think about reputation is that:

  • How we see ourselves = our identity.
  • How others see us = our reputation.

It’s pretty common, about 50/50, for the two perceptions not to match up. You know that guy at school nobody can stand? Doesn’t he think he’s pretty great? That’s an example of his self-perception not lining up with how others perceive him and his personality. Understanding the difference can be useful when it comes to learning about yourself, having empathy for others, and navigating the often muddy waters of reputation.

How to Gain a Good Reputation

Qualities of a Good Reputation

What does make for a good reputation?

  • A solid reputation is built on trust. Trustworthiness involves keeping promises and being true to your word.
  • Consistency in behavior and actions also reinforces a positive reputation. People are more likely to trust and respect people who show that they’re reliable rather than unpredictable.
  • Demonstrating empathy and kindness lets people know you’re an approachable, down-to-earth person who values the feelings of others.
  • Treating people with basic respect, regardless of their position or background, reflects well on you and makes it more likely that you’ll be treated with respect in return.
  • Exhibiting competence and effort in what you do can also establish a positive reputation. It shows others that you care enough to pay attention and develop skills rather than expecting everyone around you to pull your weight.
  • The ability to adapt and be flexible when circumstances change showcases your resilience and resourcefulness, which makes you a person others feel like they can depend on when times are challenging.

Do's and Don'ts for Building a Good Reputation


1. Do what you say you’ll do. In other words, don’t just “talk the talk.” You have to “walk the walk.” Make sure your actions align with your words and your values. If you tell a teacher you want to improve your grade, show up and do the work. If you ask someone on a date, follow through on making plans and treating them well. When your words and actions line up with each other, others will respect that.

2. Own your mistakes. None of us are perfect, and that doesn’t have to mean your reputation is tarnished forever! Instead, admit it. When you fall short or fail, address it as soon as you realize it. Acknowledge that you messed up and want to do better in the future. That kind of honesty will go a long way in the eyes of others.

3. Listen as much as (or more than) you talk. Since reputation is a lot about how others feel around you, consider how your behavior impacts their experience. If you’re so busy talking to prove that you’re smart, nervous, kind, or cool, when will they have a chance to shine? When will you have a chance to learn? Listening to the people around you is critical to building a good reputation.

4. Do what you can to help others. Life is not a competition. If someone you know is trying to get an A on a test or get a new job, why not help them study or talk them up to your boss? Just like you would appreciate their help if you needed it, it’ll mean a lot to people when you help them reach their goals.

5. Build and nurture positive relationships with peers, colleagues, and mentors. Surround yourself with individuals who inspire and uplift you. They say you can tell a lot about someone by looking at who their friend group is, so make sure you’re investing your time in the kinds of people you want to be associated with.

6. Practice humility. Acknowledge where you still have a lot to learn. Nobody in the world knows everything, and nobody lives in a vacuum. You wouldn’t be where you are today without the help of others, and there will always be areas where you can grow.

7. Give back. Challenge yourself to do acts of kindness and get involved in your community. Volunteer your time or skills to causes you believe in. Sure, this will make you “look good” when it comes to your reputation, but it will also help you remember that it’s just as important, if not more, to give than it is to take.


1. Don't bail on your promises to yourself or others. If you told yourself you would drink more water, do it. If you told your friends you’d be somewhere at a specific time, do your absolute best to be there. If you develop a habit of failing yourself and others, not only will your reputation start to take a hit, but your self-image might as well.

2. Don't dodge accountability. If you’re struggling to accomplish something you said you’d do, communicate that, apologize, and work out a plan to get back on track. If someone calls you out for making a mistake, take a deep breath and be honest. If you want to build a solid reputation, you don’t want to be the person who refuses to acknowledge when they’re wrong.

3. Don't ignore feedback. Listen, listen, listen. It can be hard to hear when others tell you that you have things to work on, but we all have things to work on. Constructive feedback can be really useful and even teach you a few things if you’re willing to be open instead of shutting it down. Getting feedback can be uncomfortable, but people will notice if you become the kind of person who refuses to grow and change.

4. Don’t make things harder for others. You are not the only person trying to make it through the day. If you’ve got too much on your plate, communicate that and ask for help, but don’t expect others to magically pick up your slack. If you don’t take out the trash like you’re supposed to, that means someone you live with has to stop what they’re doing to take care of it. If you turn in your section of the group project late or do it poorly, someone in your group has to stay up that night before it’s due to fix it or gets stuck with a lousy grade. Do your part.

5. Don't talk badly about others. Gossip is fun, easy, and feels like a bonding activity. But as much as you might think you’re developing a rapport with someone, you’re also letting them know that you might be capable of trash-talking them when they’re not around. Treat others with respect and kindness, even in their absence. And a friendly reminder: if one of your buddies is happy to trash-talk others with you, ask yourself whether they’re also trash-talking you.

6. Don't act like you know everything. You don’t. Some of the wisest people in the history of this world say things like, “The more I know, the more I know I don’t know.” If you balk at every opportunity to learn, or if you walk around like you’re always the smartest person in the room, people will take notice. Do you want to be someone who’s known for their closed-minded arrogance, or do you want to have a reputation for being humble and open to new things?

Is it Possible to Change Your Reputation?

Yes! Redemption arcs are some of the most popular stories in the world because we love to see someone turn their life around. Think Steve from Stranger Things, Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol… Some of our favorite characters are people who had a terrible reputation only to transform into kind, brave heroes. If you’re wondering how to change your bad reputation, it’s not impossible. Take an honest look at how you’ve gotten to this place, and start making changes today. It might take some time, but people will recognize that you’re changing.

If you’re looking for support and inspiration, redemption is the entire point of Jesus’ message. He believed that even those with the worst reputations—tax collectors, shepherds, lepers, and prostitutes—were worthy of his time, attention, care, and love. Because of his kindness, Mary Magdalene went from being shunned by society to one of the Bible's most famous, faithful women. If you’d like to talk about more ways Jesus’ life can teach you about change, or if you’re not sure where to start working on your reputation, please reach out to one of our Hope Coaches. We’re always here to listen without judgment, no matter what’s on your mind!

TheHopeLine Team
For over 30 years, TheHopeLine has been helping students and young adults in crisis. Our team is made up of writers and mental health professionals who care deeply about helping others.
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