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First Impressions
Posted by James F. Brown on Feb 7, 2009 - 5:03:47 PM


— Dress Like A Fortune 500 CEO On A Mailroom Budget!





            When meeting others for the first time, how you are perceived is critical. First impressions can make or break successful interactions. People react to what they see, make an instant judgment, and react based on that. And people will see you before they talk with you or have any other sort of exchange.

It’s far easier, and much more advantageous, to make a good first impression than trying to overcome a bad one. There’s a mental inertia involved here. Once people form a negative opinion, they resist changing it. There are some commonsense rules to help make any initial encounter a favorable one.

First, dress appropriately for the occasion. Showing up for a funeral dressed in a tank top, cutoffs, and sandals won’t make any difference to the deceased. But family and friends would be greatly offended at such a cavalier lack of respect for their loved one. It’s something they would likely not forget or forgive. Ever.

Remember that it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. But it’s not that difficult to figure out what constitutes appropriate attire for most occasions. How would you dress for that funeral, wedding, job interview, black tie soiree, or business meeting? The correct answer to these events is obvious. Other types of gatherings are in a grey area. What about a beach party, backyard BBQ, or get-together with friends at a bar or restaurant? A suit and tie would definitely be out of place; the dress code would be more relaxed and informal. If there’s any question about what to wear, simply ask the host ahead of time what is expected in the way of dress.

Second, be neat, clean, and presentable. Wear clothes that fit properly. The current youth fad of baggy clothes, pants worn way low, and backward baseball caps isn’t the way to go. Neither is dressing in tight, revealing outfits. Good personal hygiene and grooming are also vital. The most elegant attire can’t overcome body odor, sweaty faces, oily uncombed hair, dirty untrimmed nails, bad breath, mossy unbrushed teeth, and a visible need to shave.

            Last, have a good attitude and present an open, engaging, positive demeanor. It’s true that everybody has times when they feel down and blue. Just don’t let any of that show. Nobody wants to be around sullen, depressed people. Act upbeat and happy even if you’re not. You’ll find that such role-playing can quickly lift your spirits and get you out of a funk.

            To recap, good first impressions make others react to you in a positive and fruitful way; appropriate attire is the primary way to achieve this. Next time, I’ll discuss the flip side of this equation: how dressing well influences how you view and think about yourself.


James F. Brown is a business consultant and expert on professional attire.


Cliffside Malibu




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