While we never have a second chance to make a first impression, there may be some solutions for turning things around if we’re dissatisfied with the way others perceive us.
Impressions people form depends more on our behavior than our true personality. Anyone’s perception is their reality.
However, there are valid techniques to help us clarify our true intentions. Impression Management is a process by which people might alter the perceptions others hold of them. When used for ethical purposes, Impression Management can stretch us to new heights.
There are three general types of impression management: authentic, ideal and tactical.
The Authentic Method is used when an individual desires to present himself in a manner in which he sees himself.
The Ideal Method is used to present an image of how one wants others to see him. An image makeover falls into this category.
The Tactical Method is used when an individual desires to present the most popular image. (An example is political “spin.”)
The way our brains function when we form impressions is complex. Noted psychologist Dr. Robert Weinberger explains, “All four lobes join forces to contribute in generating signals through our senses. The occipital contributes its visual cues, the temporal stored memories, the frontal past and ongoing experiences and the parietal an integration of them all. And, even these do not take into account the almost reptilian olfactory forces that are difficult to qualify, yet instinctively and powerfully guide our first impressions without thought. Who among us has not formed an immediate impression based on a foul odor or the sensual allure of Shalimar? The substrates of first impressions, even among the youngest and most naïve human creatures, are wonders of neural achievement.”
We move in a fast-paced world. Few get to see the accolades and diplomas on our walls or the philanthropic work we do in our community. Consider Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. The main subject of his book is thin-slicing, our ability to gauge what is really important from a very narrow period of experience. The idea is that spontaneous decisions are often as good as — or even better than — carefully planned and considered ones. Gladwell gives a wide range of examples of thin-slicing — in gambling, speed dating, tennis, military war games, the movies, malpractice suits and predicting divorce.
Your environment also speaks volumes. Local interior designer Susan White said, “Businesses employing a traditional color scheme of rich jewel tones such as navy, burgundy and deep green appeal to the upper class and suggest stability and capability.”
If your office or storefront has not been updated in over 10 years, impressions formed there, rightly or wrongly, may be that your goods and services are outdated and possibly inferior.
Objectively assess your image and brand. Image changes with trends and style. Branding represents the values of a business, the lasting impression or legacy important to its mission. Elements of each are intrinsic to the other. Both must be clear, consistent and current.
Below are crucial behaviors in building a personal/corporate image and brand:
- Dress as well as you can possibly afford. High-end clothing can be found in resale shops and outlets.
- Be gracious, positive and generous. Express gratitude. Give to others and to your community.
- In social media, offer rich content and compelling updates.
- In your emails, use a simple 10-12 point font in blue or black, and a complete signature with contact info is essential.
- Responses to correspondence should be made promptly via same medium (texts with texts, calls with calls, etc.) and with correct grammar.
- Keep appointments
- Stop behaviors that may be annoying, such as talking loudly, smacking lips, self-promoting, interrupting, smoking, etc.
Michael W. Kraus, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, co-authored a study of 128 men ages 18 to 32 with diverse backgrounds and income levels. Results published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology show that clothing with high social status can increase job performance and dominance in “high stakes” competitive tasks. Results of a 2015 study, published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, suggested people engage in higher levels of abstract thinking when they dress up, compared with when they dress casually.
Are you getting the reactions, sales or promotions you want? If not, consider consulting with a professional image consultant. He or she can be pivotal in unlocking answers, tweaking behavior and restoring the comfort level in your own skin.
Helen Sage Perry has been a professional corporate and personal image consultant in Houston for the past 15 years. (www.helen-perry.com)
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