Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Message Does Your "Look" Convey?

According to a study done by New York University Graduate School of Business, people make 11 assumptions about us in the first seven seconds of contact:
  1. education level
  2. economic level
  3. perceived creditability and believability
  4. trustworthiness
  5. level of sophistication
  6. sexual identification
  7. level of success
  8. political background
  9. religious background
  10. ethnic background
  11. social and professional desirability
While you may not feel it is "fair" to be judged by your outward appearance, giving people incentive to know you better begins with making a good first impression.  It is important to note that the brain is receiving far more visual cues than verbal, hence the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words". 

What you wear to a wedding is different than what you wear to a playground.  Professionally, a baseball player would dress different than a judge and a kindergarten teacher different than a police officer.  There is a reason why certain professions and even school children have uniforms. 

Perhaps you've heard of this communication rule:
7% of communication is through words, 38% tone of voice, and 55% body language/appearance. (Albert Mehrabian)

Your attire should be appropriate for your work climate or social situation.  The traditional idea of "Sunday Best" is that you save your best to wear to church on Sundays.   The type of outfit you choose conveys a message of importance and respect to those you are with.  Think of how a bride and groom would feel if a guest showed up in a sweat suit! 

Not taking time to look professional for a home show or an appointment may come across as indifferent or unorganized.  Customers should have the impression that you are serious about your business.  Dressing one step up from the customers you are with is a good rule of thumb.  People should be able to identify you as the professional in the room. 

Elements of a Polished Look:
  • An updated haircut and color- If you haven't received a compliment on your hair in a while, you may need a change.  Of course, make sure your hair is clean and styled.
  • A natural make up look- Just enough, well applied, makeup can enhance your natural beauty. 
  • Solid-color, basic wardrobe pieces.  Be sure they are wrinkle free and do not show wear.  Adding a variety of accessories changes the look and style of your basic wardrobe stretching your fashion budget. 
  • Eye catching accessories- Hats, jewelry, shoes, handbags, scarves, belts, glasses, etc...  Adding accessories to an outfit can update the style, add visual interest, and give it a finished look.  Most stylists will suggest 2/3 of your wardrobe budget be spent on accessories.
  • Personal style reflects our personality but keep it tasteful.  Hair, nails, jewelry, tattoos, or clothing that is too crazy or offensive could hinder relationships.
93% of lasting impressions come in the first 4 minutes of meeting someone.  Everyone you meet could be a potential customer so it is important to regularly have a polished look.  Even when running quick errands, apply some makeup and style your hair.  Add cute shoes and some colorful jewelry to spice up a casual outfit.  It only takes a few extra minutes.  You may run into customers or strike up a conversation with a new contact.  Be memorable and not in a bad way!

We all have those days where we throw on a baseball cap to run into the grocery store, hoping we don't see someone we know.  If this tends to be a common occurrence, perhaps there are a few changes you can make.  When others notice the changes or offer compliments, it will give your self-esteem a nice boost. 

Something to think about!

You may also be interested in this post on how our actions create "Lasting Impressions".


  1. While doing research for a recent Jewelry show, I found information on the basic wardrobe. This should consist of a black outfit that comes with both a skirt and pants, a neutral colored skirted outfit, a navy blazer, khaki trousers, a denim skirt, a white t-shirt, a white bouse, blue jeans, black jeans, and a black dress. I have found lately that these are the things I wear most in my closet. So why do I have two closets of clothes?? Anyone else in the same boat?