You Are What I See, or Are You?


By: Jane Seaman AICI FLC

An important initial connection can be made when we meet someone for the first time.  In seven seconds we can make up to eleven impressions purely based on what we see.  When visual contact is made we will immediately start to decide if a person is credible, likeable, trustworthy or, capable.  People may be attracted to the eyes, or a smile, however, the majority of our decisions are based on visual contact formed by the clothes we see.  We will make more decision with our eyes, than we do with our ears!  We may have read about a person’s skills and achievements, or heard the same through a colleague or networking group, but the ultimate decision as to whether we want to connect with someone will be based on what we see, not what we hear.

Most people can relate this point to selling a house.  Who hasn’t heard about ‘curb appeal’ or ‘staging’?  We may hear from a professional realtor that a house, based on our needs, is a perfect size, and in a perfect location.  But if the curb appeal, or staged interior, does not appeal to us visually, then what we hear from a professional becomes irrelevant. We will make an important purchase based more on what we see, rather than what we hear.  So, when it comes to a professional presence; how’s your ‘curb appeal’ and ‘staging’?

You are what I see, or are you?  It is important when considering our professional presence that we are aware, and understand, the messages our clothes project and that those messages are consistent with our abilities.  There is a thin line between ability and credibility!  We know our own abilities, but are they recognizable to another’s eye when they see us for the first time? Can our credibility be seen?  Clothing is a tool we can control, and use to help us achieve a consistency between visual credibility and our actual ability.

The Harvard School of Business did a study on how we lose credibility through what we wear.  Some of their findings were:  large or floral patterns.  We tend to be distracted by these and we do not associate them with professional. Poor fit, poor grooming.  We associate both with lack of care.  Clothes too casual equate to casual attitude.  Too many accessories, extremely high heels, novelty ties.  These items are all distracting and take the focus away from one’s professional ability.

There is a simple test you can do to note the messages your clothes project.  Dress in your professional attire and stand in front of a full-length mirror.  Close your eyes.  Count to five.  Open your eyes.  What do you see?  Ask yourself, “Do I see my abilities and values reflected in front of me?”  Are you what you see?  Our clothes tell our story.  You have the opportunity to be a bestselling author.

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