I recently delivered a program to executives on persuasion in business. That’s where this conversation was mentioned as an example of an element that impacts persuasion. One of the components of persuasion is credibility. Your appearance directly impacts your credibility. When you are more credible, you are more persuasive. What many people don’t realize is that the people you meet make quick decisions about your credibility just by observing what you wear.
I showed the audience some photos of workers in different attire and asked for some quick judgments. Suits and long sleeves are perceived as more powerful than short sleeved shirts and a skirt. That’s what the audience found. Here’s how it works. When you show more skin, the perception is that you have less power. When you show less skin the perception is that you have more power. Cleavage, obviously falls into the less powerful category. So what were these women at the bank thinking? Who knows.
I’m not much of a prude, but it seems to me in business where we’re working harder than ever, that it’s a good idea to leverage everything you can in your favor. Appearance is just one of those areas. If you think people won’t notice your attire, you’re wrong. If you think they don’t talk you are really out of the loop. I know of one situation where a female executive dresses quite provocatively. (Think see-though blouses.) She often meets with male executives. When this highly visible woman (pun intended) meets with one executive, his assistant will tell her boss that he has a meeting with the stewardess. Any reference to this female executive is met with the assistant miming a flight attendant doing the safety announcement on the airplane and pointing to the exits fore and aft. Could you imagine being so ridiculed without your knowledge in an executive office? Yup. People do talk.
How much effort do you put into the selection of your wardrobe? If it’s not much, you may want to rethink that. You might consider showing less skin. If not, you’re going to have people talking about you. I’ll make a prediction. There will be a lot of executive assistants telling their bosses to enjoy the view.