Tips for making the right first impression
By KRYSTAL CLARE
It was in the airline industry that I realised our clothes send signals about who we are. Cabin crew and pilots were expected to be prim, and impeccably groomed before and after every flight.
Not a hair out of place, not a button missing, and each piece of clothing perfectly pressed – whenever we were in uniform. Having a uniform meant carrying ourselves well because we were the faces of the airline.
We, as humans, spend every minute of every day “reading” people and drawing conclusions; the unconscious mind is working all the time. The conclusions drawn will most likely set the pace for future interactions.
When the word “casual working environment” comes into play, it is important to remember that the workplace still needs to be regarded with respect and – even when adopting a more relaxed environment – the usual code of business etiquette should be observed.
How you carry yourself can be broken down into three parts: your appearance, your behaviour and the way you communicate. It is extremely important because it not only affects the way others treat you but how you treat “you”.
“Dressing well is a form of good manners.” — Tom Ford
Before we start debating how superficial humans are, it is scientifically proven that: “We judge others within seconds of meeting them.” – Albert Mehrabian.
While we have been taught by at least one figure of authority in our life to never judge a book by its cover, how do we ensure that others treat us the same way? Marketing companies invest millions on packaging. How we dress is, essentially, our packaging.
When you feel fresh, smell great and wear something that makes you feel good and fits well, your body language will exude confidence.
An important rule to remember is to dress with the Time, Occasion and Place in mind; to avoid being underdressed or even overdressed.
Etiquette is simply making the other person feel comfortable.
Imagine meeting someone for the first time; you put out your hand and receive a limp handshake or a hurried one without any eye contact.
How would it make you feel? The excitement and curiosity immediately dwindles because they left a weak or poor impression on you.
These sorts of behaviours evoke a sense of disappointment and disrespect that is felt by the receiver. Our posture, eye contact and our smiles are what others pay attention to – unconsciously.
Walking into a room, with your head down and eyes to the floor communicates to others that you are not a confident person; or says, “I am uninterested” or simply, “do not talk to me”.
Some of these behaviours are borne out of habit. Which is why we must take a step back and examine our body language from time to time.
Communication is key
The words we use can also have a profound effect on the people around us. However, communication includes our tone, message and our words, and these are not of equal importance.
Once emotions come into play, our tone of voice varies and projects the many truths – our frustration, delight, anxiety, or even anger.
Saying the same words in a different tone could make a world of difference. Research shows that tone of voice accounts for 38% of the overall message. Only 7% of the overall message is made up of our actual choice of words.
Words such as “just” automatically downplay an achievement no matter how big. While it is always wise to carefully choose our words, the part that plays the biggest role when communicating is our body language. It accounts for 55% of the overall message.
Authenticity in a cluttered world
Ideally, carrying yourself well means communicating who you are with clarity.
Here’s something to think about though. Carrying yourself well sometimes isn’t just about you; it’s about evoking certain emotions when others interact with you.
The message begins with you and ends with the other person decoding who you are. It’s also taking the time to make others feel comfortable, welcome, respected and important.
Appearance, behaviour and communication make up the image of who you are. In a cluttered, fast-paced business climate, always remember that the end goal is to make a positive and impactful impression with authenticity.
Krystal Clare is an etiquette consultant who is passionate about self-development and lifelong learning. To connect with her and discover more personal development tips and how you can ‘dress to impress’, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org