First and Second Impressions: Dressing well is a good impression

Appearance and Attitude. The first impression you give is generally the way you look, and the second is generally what you say and how you act. These two go hand in hand, with one often being a reflection of the other.  

For the purposes of this article ‘first impression’ will mean your appearance and ‘second impression’ will mean your attitude. This is purely on the basis that in our history as human beings electronic communication forms but a dot on our timeline.

Up until recently the first interaction you would have had with someone is seeing them, with the second being how they act. As we evolved into more complex creatures we were able to send letters and nowadays emails to people we have never met. It goes without saying that the evolution of technology has far exceeded our evolution as humans, so although we get more and more used to the idea of emailing before meeting, I’m sure you’ll agree that you never feel as though you know someone until you’ve seen them in person. 

That said, the way you look goes a long way. Millennia ago, the way you look would have meant ‘how dangerous is this person?’ in the struggle for survival on the forest floor. Those reactions still exist in our brains today. Rightly or wrongly we look at the people around us and make a judgement deep within our brain - can i trust this person? Are they credible?

The things that contribute to that answer are, among many, your expression and what you’re wearing. As many politicians trying to win ballots will testify, the expression you wear on your face will determine whether people trust you. Wearing a smile will, believe it or not, makes you look more trustworthy. The clothes you wear will also add to this perception. A well presented individual naturally comes across more trustworthy than someone who isn’t as well presented. 

This appearance then writes a cheque for your attitude to cash. Appearance is often a reflection of attitude, and when the two don’t match you can be caught off guard. You would expect a well presented person who looks trustworthy, to reciprocate the trust you’ve placed in them with friendliness. This is the kind of impression you want to make, you want someone to expect a great attitude from you and for them to feel as though they have correctly placed their trust in you. 

Your second impression stands on your first. That’s not to say you can’t have a great attitude without being presented well, but you’ll have added an additional step before you get to show who you are. Why make it more difficult for yourself?

It can even be the case that your image [first impression] can compensate for a shortfall in attitude, although this will only be for a small period of time as people will eventually see through the halo effect [as discussed in another article]. For example, if you are presented well but don’t come across as best you can, you’re more likely to be extended the benefit of the doubt, a second chance to really show who you are. Another reason for looking sharp.

Whether we like it or not, appearance plays a big part in our interactions and trust for one another. Understanding this should make it easy for us to use it to your advantage.

The idea here is to outwardly show who you inwardly are.

Think back to school and of all the cliques that would dress a certain way so as to identify themselves with a certain set of values. It’s more or less the same thing, you basically want to tell your clients, friends, colleagues, bosses; the world, that you are someone to be trusted. And with that trust, you will be a great leader.