Friday, July 22, 2011

Triple A Image: Be Aware, Be Authentic, Be Appropriate (Step 1)

You are in a doctor’s waiting room. It’s quiet. You're reading a magazine. The door opens and someone walks in. What do you do? You stop reading, you look up, and your eyes follow this newcomer from the door...across the waiting room... all the way to the receptionist's window. You immediately begin making assessments and assumptions. Based on attire, grooming and communication (verbal and non-verbal) you decide within seconds if this newcomer is another patient (who better not try to get in ahead of you,) a delivery person, a staff member, or a pharmaceutical rep (who definitely better not try to get in ahead of you.) Based solely on the way they are dressed you make assumptions about their social standing, level of education, financial status, even if they are likable, unpleasant or a downright pain in the neck. Yes, you do. Even if you don't realize it.

And, guess what?

People are doing the same to you… in the doctor’s office, your business office, the grocery store, the post office, the movie theater, etc. Your appearance is the first message you give out about your image--about who you are. What does your image say about you?

Image Enrichment™ is a process. It takes time and thought. But, I'd like to help you get a jumpstart, by sharing three quick tips gleaned from a recent presentation I gave to a group of business professionals. Today’s tip:

Be Aware.

Be aware of what you want your image to say.  When you walk into a room, what are the first words you want to come into others' minds? Take the time to put it in writing. Make a list of the qualities and attributes you have on the inside, and that you wish to project on the outside. Then, make another list-- a brutally honest list that critiques your current image. Compare the lists and determine where you want to make improvements. Concentrate on your ABC’s: your appearance, behavior and communication skills.

How’s your appearance? Do you need to update your wardrobe with clothes that are complimentary to your body type, skin tone and hair color? Do you need to add clothing that says 'professional, successful and confident'? Do you need a more contemporary hairstyle, makeup, or even eyeglasses? Do you need to shape up? Healthy, fit people are perceived to be more confident, likable and successful. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just sayin’ it IS.

How’s your behavior? Do you need an attitude adjustment? Something as simple as a smile goes a long way toward projecting an approachable, professional, confident image. How do you behave in business-social situations?  Do you tell, or laugh at, dirty jokes, or do you keep the humor clean? Do you gossip, or do you keep the conversation on the high road? Are you kind and patient with others, or are you snappy and bossy? 

How are your communication skills? Do you need to improve your vocabulary with interesting, engaging words? Easy suggestion: Sign up for Word of the Day. It’s one of the best tools around for learning interesting words. Watch your volume. People shy away from folks who shout, or who speak so softly you have to strain to hear them. Be aware of your body language, and cultivate a firm, confident handshake.

I recently worked with a client who is retired military. He says that in a gathering of military personnel, he can tell a person’s rank simply by the way he or she enters a room and the way they carry themselves—whether in uniform or not. They never even have to speak. Their posture and facial expression, the way they walk and shake hands tell the story. It’s the same with all of us. Be aware of the signals you are sending, and determine whether they are true to the person you are, and to the person you wish others to see.

Next Time:
Triple A Image Step Two: Be Authentic


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