Thursday, 22 September 2011

Esse Quam Videri - To Be Rather Than To Seem. What Are You Saying About You?

I just completed a course on professional presence today.  It was very insightful and interesting to hear the notion that according  to studies, only 7% of what we say (content) has any impact vs 55% of how we come across in our body language (what we do, wear, our posture etc).  The remainder being our tone/sound.

Most of us know that how we look can unfortunately be how we are perceived.  However is that always accurate?

I wore one of my outfits that I designed today. This is typically how I would dress,  with a pop of colour at varying degrees.

From just looking at me, one of the other participants derived that I was a confident risk taker, sometimes enthusiastic who loves my job.  Huh?  She was right. How is that so?

Although she was right about me and in fact I was right for the most part about her too. How we look vs how we are as a person does not always correlate.  So how can we ensure we are accurately perceived?

Do you ever consider how you dress and how it will be regarded?  I am very self aware and I do put thought into what I wear.  I am in a senior position in a corporate organisation and going with the grain does have its benefits.   It is just that bog standard blues, grays and black outfits just do not represent who I am.  I typically only buy those colours to ensure that on occasion where a bright coloured outfit really just will not cut it, I am able to dress accordingly. 

I am fully aware that I bring colour to my organisation in many ways.  I also notice when people look at my vibrant dresses or skirts, and double take when I have my Afro out.   I do not dress like this with the intention of drawing attention to myself, I am just expressing who I am.  Wearing bright colours makes me smile.  Nevertheless I know I do draw attention to myself.

I am not actually sure how I come across and what the curious looks mean.  Does it mean that I should dress more conservative due to the perception that I may come across as an attention seeker, which as a result could deflect colleagues from taking me seriously?  

Perhaps as opposed to wearing an orange pair of shoes with a pink dress I could compromise and wear brown shoes.  Still a pop of colour but less shockingly so.

Do I care enough? Yes I do or it would not be up for discussion.  However I am somewhat of a non-conformist and I prefer to teach people that they can respectfully be true to themselves and remain professional.  Rather than not represent a true me.

Yesterday, I went out to meet some friends and one of the ladies asked if I could wear the dress I had on to work.  It was a 60s a line dress just above the knee.  I asked her if it was inappropriate.  She said no it was just that they were forced to wear corporate.   Where I work has a smart but casual policy.  I looked just fine, but perhaps if I wore a white blouse, black pants and black shoes like she had on, I would come across more professional it seems.

The jury's still out for me regarding whether I should conform to the corporate colours, fit in and be uniform.  Dress with the 'secretary' look.  The thing is, even if I did just wear the secretary style pencil skirt with a blouse, I would not be able to resist wearing a pencil skirt that is green with polka dots and a nice red blouse like I wore on Monday.  As I write, it does seem far out, but I love it!!

I will definitely work on my intonations, posture, eye contact.   I will be more mindful of how I articulate, the words I use and ensure that I am knowledgeable enough to convey my message effectively.  I will give my all and remain professional.  After all I got this far some how.  I may also  think twice before wearing Orange shoes to the office but for now I will still wear them.



  1. First - when you say 'an outfit that I made' do you mean you made the dress or you put it together? I'm just checking whether you've got the seamstress genes too.

    Second, I know what you mean about your dress, I think that people must take you seriously as you are in a position of authority & are confident. Sometimes confidence can mean that you can wear what someone else wouldn't be able to get away with - cue Lady Gaga :).

    Great post

  2. @Bailey Ana, I designed and had it made (updated post accordingly). I haven't attempted to identify if the seamstress genes have been sent my way :). I will post pics of the outfits and shoes I have designed soon. Would appreciate feedback :).

    I totally agree with you, and for those you may doubt. I will let my countenance and abilities demonstrated prove otherwise.

    As for Lady Gaga heyyyyyyy I love her 'I am what I am' energy. Thanks for commenting!