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.