Does This Look Good On Me?

By Tracy MacDonald
Apr 2021

Raise your hand if you’ve wondered if your pants will fit following weeks, months, or even a year of working remotely or just plain moving around less.

Raise your other hand if you’ve been tempted to keep that more casual work wardrobe going even if you’ve returned to an office. Or if you’re tempted to because now that so many others have been working from home, when you always did, perceptions may have changed.

Photo by Misha Earle from Pexels

Now, think twice about keeping that super casual wardrobe; whether on screen or in person.

As much as we may wish it weren’t true, people do judge us by the way we dress, how we speak, and whether or not our hair looks like we just rolled out of bed. While many office wardrobe rules may have gone by the wayside in the past year, human behavior, especially things we don’t even realize we do, has not. Unconscious bias happens. The good news is that there are some things we can still control, especially the ways in which we present ourselves to others.

Heuristics, which are mental shortcuts that others make when they see us, play a large role in perception and opinion. It’s completely involuntary and we don’t even know we are doing it, but those perceptions form opinions. Opinions are incredibly subjective and the challenge is that we have no idea what those opinions will be since they are based on the other person’s culture and values. Since they are so subjective, they can be either positive or negative and chances are that we will not know what they are until the next encounter with that same person, if we even know at all. These non-verbal cues we generate take time to undo, if they can be undone at all.

Think through some of these examples and give yourself a quick personal inventory.

At some point in the near future, we will shake hands again when we meet people. Is your handshake firm and are you looking the other person in the eye?

Even if you remain working remotely, and many of you will, are you dressed professionally? Did you shower and comb or brush your hair? Are your clothes ironed? Do they fit well and appropriately? (If they don’t, make the investment in a few pieces that do until you can get back into your pre-COVID wardrobe).

Whether you have reinvented yourself, or your business, or you are returning to the business environment you were forced to leave, remember that non-verbal cues speak volumes. If we don’t dress and behave in a professional manner, then we won’t be perceived as professional. And if we are not perceived as professional, we will not be taken seriously. It also makes it difficult for us to be role models for our teams if we are asking others to do something we are not willing to do.

Impressions matter. Make yours strong, positive and memorable in all the right ways.

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