Despite admonishments to the contrary since childhood, when it comes to people, I “judge a book by its cover.” I bet you do too. We can’t help ourselves. It’s human nature. When meeting someone new, we give her/him the 30-second once over. Is this someone we want to know? Someone we would be comfortable with? And rest assured, if we’re doing it to them, they’re doing the same thing when they meet us.
At first we’re struck by the structure of a person’s appearance. Then we begin to deconstruct our overall impression. Real estate agents advise people who want to sell their home to make sure it has “curb appeal,” that it’s a place people would want to enter and spend time. Think of the first impression you make as human curb appeal. Be someone people want to meet and get to know.
Accessibility: This is one of the intangibles that can make all the difference in a 30- second once over. Are you approachable? Do you have a smile or a scowl on your face? If someone looks at you, do you make eye contact? There are some people who give off a vibe that says, “don’t come near me.” I always feel good when I’m walking down the street and someone stops me to ask directions; it means that I was communicating accessibility.
Posture: Your mother was right: Stand up straight. These days, we all spend endless hours hunched over a computer. Don’t let that carry over when you’re out in public. A sloucher is deemed someone who is insecure. How we carry ourselves speaks volumes. Think about it. When you see someone who is standing erect your immediate thought is that the person is confident. So roll your shoulders back and hold your head high.
Attire and Grooming: The key is to dress appropriately, which seems simple enough. However, we’ve all seen people dress in ways that make us wonder, “What were they thinking?” I’m talking about the woman of certain age who looks like she raided her teenage daughter’s closet or the one who shows up to a business meeting decked out in an outfit befitting a night at a disco. Then there’s the guy who thinks ‘dress down Friday’ is every day of the week. While you don’t have to make a fashion statement every time you leave the house, your clothes, shoes and accessories should be clean, coordinated and comfortable. Your personal style is a reflection of your personality.
We all have bad hair days but there’s never an excuse for dirty locks. Make-up should enhance your looks not overwhelm your appearance. If you’ve ever been in an elevator with someone who has overdone it, you know that when it comes to perfume or cologne, you should follow the advice of the old Brylcream commercial, “a little dab will do ya.”
Bio Marian Rivman is a New York based public relations and communications consultant. Her clients have included UN agencies, Fortune 500 companies, international non-profits, bold-faced names and the recreational scuba diving industry. She is known for her unbounded energy, directness and skill at translating complex issues into comprehensible messages for an array of audiences. Marian is particularly interested in the power of non-verbal communication. In addition to her independent consulting work, Marian is affiliated with New Solutions .