Understanding what signals you’re giving out is vital if you want to succeed in business, warns Chris Lorimer
Be honest, you know you do it yourself, but people are making judgements about you as soon as they set eyes on you.
Within the first seven seconds, your potential customers, employers or colleagues are making assumptions about you that may determine whether they decide to find out more or give you the proverbial cold shoulder.
Within those first fleeting moments, they will have assessed whether you are friendly, trustworthy, successful, interesting, inspiring, kind, astute, or, even, intelligent.
Even as you are uttering your first sentence, they will have taken a view as to your job, educational attainment, level of income, sexuality, and, in short, your value to them as a human being.
Shocked? Don’t be. Although we know that these initial assumptions are often wildly inaccurate, your success at developing business or personal relationships means that you have to understand what signals you are giving out and, more importantly, how they are being interpreted.
You are unconsciously wearing a uniform that is displaying to the wider world an image that could be secretly jeopardising your career, your ambitions, your relationships or, indeed, your ability to fit in.
So what are the signals that you are giving out? What mixture of factors is contributing to this unconsciously assembled uniform?
The good news is by focusing on just five areas you can overhaul, upgrade or, just, adjust your uniform, helping you influence how others see you.
1. Dress for success.
No one’s suggesting that you need to buy a new wardrobe, but you do need to dress appropriately regardless of whether you are a lawyer or a teacher.
Unless you are a supermodel, if clothing distracts, it will undermine the image that you are trying to put across. Dirty or outdated clothing will lead people to think that you are dirty or outdated. Take a good look at what successful peers are wearing and adjust to match your own personality.
2. Face the truth.
The head, or more specifically, the face is the usual landing point for the eyes when you start a conversation. If you decide to create distractions for the observer through unkempt hair (wherever it might be), overaggressive make-up, novelty jewellery or glasses, then accept that it will leave an impression – hope that it is the one that you want to present.
3. Making Contact.
The first contact is crucial to the first impression. Posture, eye contact, smile, and handshake all leave impressions – are they the ones you want to leave?
Beware that overconfident body language to some might make you appear arrogant or aggressive. Equally, shambling, deferential approaches may put off all but those looking to adopt.
4. Smell the roses.
They’ve got close enough to smell your fear, hopefully they don’t. Even if it is your favourite perfume or aftershave, the best smell is no smell. Halitosis, nicotine, and body odour are major detractors in the world of image.
5. Speak unto strangers.
After the initial welcome (please sound genuine), the best step is to ask an open question and then wait for the answer.
Remember the majority of what people understand comes from how you say it rather than what you say, so be welcoming and enthused. Make sure you are clear and listen carefully. Don’t try to impress, develop rapport.
So armed with this knowledge, the wrong question to ask is “So what can I do about my image?” A better question would be “Do you need to do anything different?”
Ideally you’ll ask friends and colleagues to provide feedback on how you come across and whether your uniform is helping you to be successful.