Image creation – what counts and what not exactly does

the suit

People store all potentially important information about you in cluster that we tend to call “image”. We use it then to predict behavior of each other. It is a useful shorthand. What we do forget all the time – that it is only this, a shorthand. Nothing more. Nonetheless it does exist powerfully in our minds. Also, there is no escape from making all sort of impressions on others. There are some key elements of image creation that can make positive difference – we can appear under positive categories in peoples information clusters about us. Let’s get to it in Charisma Workshop style!

The looks – they do count, probably even more than you imagine. Yes, but not exactly in a way that we tend to consider this issue. Probably you are familiar with the “Halo effect” – Master Chief aside, it’s about how we assign certain attributes to other people in just few seconds from meeting them. This would mean that good looking people will be generally associated with positive characteristics and not that good looking ones won’t. It is not entirely true – facial symmetry, “healthy” look and overall fitness is important part of positive image, but it is only “a” part and there is vast field of indicators we can use instead of being Brad Pitt. Being aware of what you’re wearing is key element of how “the looks” imprint on impression we make. I presume you can easily imagine what is wearing “Italian womanizer”, “lawyer” or a “rock star”, am I right? Know what your style indicates. I’m not saying “be fashion junkie”, but match your clothing to an occasion wisely. And remember – a role is built from shoes up.

Confidence – the Holy Grail of illusion. You don’t have to feel confident to appear confident. Your body will naturally react to anxiety by closing your posture and submissive body language. It’s true, that’s how natural selection has shaped our brains. It’s also true that conditions have changed a bit from time when this kind of behavior was useful and/or lifesaving. Today then, you can force your body to look more confident by breathing control, straightening your spine, relaxing shoulders, opening your posture a bit and smiling without being threatened. Take few deep breaths, like you would want to inflate your stomach, relax tensed muscles – try to notice how your heart is slowing down. Stand straight and lower your shoulders. Try not to cross your legs. Take your hands from the pockets. You could feel like you don’t know what to do with them and the answer is: do nothing. You can tuck your thumbs into back pockets to reduce that weird feeling, but overtime it will disappear. While you walk, slow down and lengthen your step. Boom – you appear confident to others.

Empathy – reading in peoples feelings is a skill and the key element of navigating in social interactions ocean. Try to recognize and predict others feelings before they articulate them and figure out how to handle them beforehand if possible. We do it all the time intuitively – sometimes better, sometimes worse, but guess what, our unconscious brain does not have every answer. Let’s make use of our rational brain and get creative in handling other peoples feelings. By that I don’t mean we should apply hardcore rationality into emotional world, but rather we should be aware of just how we could feel in situations put on others and see logic behind certain reactions driven by these emotions. If something would irritate you there is a good chance it will irritate others – you can prepare for such situation and be perceived as insightful and socially savvy instead of being an ass. Let’s take that extra mile.

Feel encouraged to comment on the issue and suggest next topic to discuss 😀

In the meantime, take care!

– Przemek Kucia

3 thoughts on “Image creation – what counts and what not exactly does

  1. tracycembor says:

    Especially in business situations, I try to dress one step above my customers or the group to whom I am presenting. If it is office casual, I wear a blazer. If it is business casual, I wear a suit. If it is professional, I wear my best suit and jewelry. I have seen suggestions that you match what your expected audience is wearing, but I think that comes off as unprofessional and sloppy. You want to show that you value them by dressing well, just not too well.

    Yay for Master Chief references!

    While I don’t agree with everything Guy Kawasaki says (and I always feel like he is out to get my money), I thought this was an interesting infographic about likeability, which is what you try to achieve in a first impression.

    http://www.guykawasaki.com/enchantment/likability/

  2. Przemek Kucia says:

    Well basically, as you pointed out, there are two main schools of broad strategies, let’s call them “screening” school and “framing” school. First one says that in order to have good relations with other you need to adapt to “their whatever they do”. And this is proven to be somewhat successful. The second one will tell you that you need to lead, put a frame on conversation that you’re comfortable with – this is my “favorite”, but it’s a harder approach. Main difference is, as always in those single cases of very extreme people – and there is no rule of thumb for those.

    Some of topics included on Kawasakis infographic will appear on Charisma Workshop. Especially smile, and reading emotions in general, rules of neuro-linguistics (but for this my English is maybe too rusty at this time), message composition issues and so on.

    To conclude, my take is this – subtlety is the key. If you’re naturally a “framing” type go for “framing” school, maybe tone it a little with super kindness, extra warmth or complying more in not important matters – experiment to enhance your intuition. When someone is “screening” everybody and suddenly he or she is starting to force her/his own frame it will be (appear) inconsistent, uncomfortable (for both sides) and this could turn out more of obstacle than helpful tip.

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