by Kimberly Anderson
What do a doctor, nurse, butler, auto mechanic and chef have in common? They are easily identified by the uniform they wear to perform their jobs. Let’s face it, we all wear some type of “uniform” that makes us unique and different, but is your uniform hurting your ability to make friends or attain job advancement?
During your next conversation with a friend, pay special attention to the adjectives you use to describe other people: “My friend, Sally, always dresses so stylishly and attractively, plus she’s so nice she’d give you the clothes off her back.” Or “Jim is so polite and is always such a gentleman.” Or, in contrast, “Tom drinks too much and could use a good manners class.”
You see, we all project a specific image to the world, whether it’s one we’ve worked hard to obtain or it’s the image we’ve acquired over time without much thought or effort. Regardless of where you stand, it’s critical to recognize that your overall image, including body language, communication skills, habits, table manners and your uniform all directly affect the way your family, friends, colleagues and others treat you.
Let’s imagine for a moment that the President of the United States addressed the nation from the presidential podium smoking a cigarette and wearing jeans and a baseball hat. Or imagine at your next doctor’s visit that he/she continued to answer and talk on the cell phone in between offering you medical advice. Or perhaps you notice your accountant using poor grammar, bad language and telling dirty jokes. These impressions would not be favorable; in fact, we would not vote for nor recommend their services to others. We know in fact that a poor image works against our quest to form relationships and advance in our careers.
If you want to improve your image, mastering these five areas can quickly boost your confidence and help you put your best foot forward:
#1 Image and Appearance: How you look to the world is important. You don’t have to conform to a traditional “uniform,” but take a look at yourself before you walk out the door; or better yet, ask someone you trust to tell you the truth about your appearance.
#2 Introductions: Men and women should always extend a hand when being introduced. Offer a nice firm handshake as you look the other person in the eyes. Never extend a soft or limp handshake. Don’t be intimidated by all the “rules” of introductions; it’s more important to kindly introduce one person to another if you have forgotten the proper rules.
#3 Communication: Not only are the words you say important, but your tone of voice also plays an important role in your image. Speak clearly, using good grammar that is not peppered with slang and filler words like: huh, yeah, like you know, or dude. Also, remember to use Who, What, When and Where questions to help keep a conversation moving, especially when seated next to an unfamiliar person. Show a genuine interest in others and they will return the favor.
#4 Body Language: Your non-verbal image is a neon sign that conveys everything you’re feeling and thinking. The way you stand, walk, sit, and the use of your arms can enhance or destroy your overall image. Walk and stand upright, and use good posture that communicates your self-confidence and interest in others.
#5 Social Graces: Knowing how to conduct yourself in a variety of social or business situations places you in an enhanced image group. Simple acts of kindness such as holding a door open, extending a warm friendly welcome, being a good listener, sending a thank you note and using proper table manners all help to improve your image. Being boorish, discourteous or flamboyant, however, will spoil your persona.
So, what does your uniform say about you to the world? Don’t allow your image to just happen, but rather remember, “practice makes perfect.” Work daily at learning and improving the above skills and you will notice that family, friends and colleagues will begin to show you more appreciation and respect. b