Body Language 50 Clothing

October 22, 2019

On the surface, it seems like clothing has very little to do with the signals that are being sent or interpreted by body language, but that is not true at all. Just as the cultural background for some forms of body language has major impact on the interpretation, so do the trappings we wrap ourselves in.

Let’s examine some examples of ways clothing might make us interpret body language in a specific way.

Business Woman

Suppose you were on an elevator with one other person who looks like a female executive. She is dressed in a neat gray suit and has her hair tied back in a businesslike manner. She is carrying a black folio that is neatly zipped up. As she leaves the elevator you say, “have a nice day,” and she gives you the OK sign, which you interpret as “Thanks, I appreciate the good wishes.”

Maid

Now when the door opens on the next floor, a maid comes in with frumpy clothes and a dust rag over her shoulder. You say “Good Morning” and she flashes an OK sign at you. She seems to be saying “I’m bushed. I have been working since 11 pm.”

Millennial

After the maid reaches her floor, she leaves and is replaced by a much younger female. She looks to be in her mid 20’s. She is dressed in a trendy outfit that is very tight on her. She is concentrating on her cell phone and is in the process of texting a friend while chewing gum. You remark, “Isn’t it a beautiful day?” She doesn’t even look up from the phone but flashes an OK sign with the hand she has been using to text. It seems like she is saying “whatever.”

Shoes

How we present ourselves to the world has a lot to do with how other people will interpret our body language. For example, even the footware we choose will cause people to interpret our actions as those of a stodgy blowhard or a creative free spirit.

Mix it up

If you want to try an interesting experiment, simply change the style you normally wear and go through your normal daily routine. You might wear a different style of jewelry or a hoodie rather than a button down shirt. People will look at you in a funny way. You appear to be different from your normal self, but often others cannot pinpoint what the difference is until you tell them.

Suspenders

For a man, there are usually two options for keeping your pants from falling down. The first is a belt pulled tight enough to keep the pressure between the pants and your stomach from allowing the pants to drop. The other option is suspenders, where the pants cannot fall because their weight is being held up by both shoulders.

If the man was your superior, would you rather have him be uncomfortable with the pressure on his abdomen or would you like to see him express his artistic nature with a pair of bright red suspenders? If you felt insecure with the man, which option would make you feel more at ease?

Uniform out of place

If a man came to a business meeting dressed as a baseball umpire, would that suggest there is tension in the group that requires some judgments to be made?

Wrong costume

If a neighborhood child that you know well rang your doorbell on Halloween and you opened the door to see him dressed in his normal play clothes saying “Trick or Treat,” how would you react?

Unexpected bizarre attire

Suppose you were on a plane that just landed and was at the gate. Now the pilot steps out of the cockpit wearing a bathing suit; would you freak out? I’m pretty sure that I would.

Keep in mind that how we present ourselves to the people we interface with has a lot to do with how they will interpret our actions.

This is a part in a series of articles on “Body Language.” The entire series can be viewed on https://www.leadergrow.com/articles/categories/35-body-language or on this blog.


An Antidote for Executive Stress

July 26, 2013

BankruptIf you are in an executive position, chances are you live in a very high stress world. Conditions and events in the world over the past decade have led to a much higher level of complexity and risk in everything we do. The pressure for performance and the razor thin margin between success and failure have resulted in health problems for numerous executives. It seems there is no way of avoiding the incredible pressure executives face daily.

What if there was a way you could get out from under the immense pressure and have the ability to relax, even though the challenges at work often seem insurmountable? Would that be helpful? I truly believe there is a pathway to this kind of existence. It is under your nose. Unfortunately, most executives do not see the wisdom or power in the method I am about to explain, so they go on with the same struggle, day after day, rarely gaining on the very problems that are making them sick.

The antidote is to carve out time to work with your organization to create an improved culture. This suggestion sounds impossible to most CEOs I interview, because they are more than fully consumed trying to survive. How could they possibly create enough slack time in the schedule to actually work on the culture? This attitude means these executives are literally stuck in the rut they hate with no viable way out. I call this phenomenon the “Executive Whack-a-mole Syndrome.” When top executives spend 100% of their time dealing with crises and problems, there is no time left to develop a culture where there are fewer problems.

Investing in the culture means spending time with people learning how to work better as a team. It means documenting your behaviors or how you intend to treat each other so it becomes possible to hold each other accountable. It means learning to listen more often and more effectively, so the communication problems are significantly reduced. Also, it means learning to trust each other, so more delegation is possible and the micromanagement is not necessary. The perceived need to micromanage creates a significant percentage of executive stress.

Improving the culture means having the executive be more willing to be transparent and admit mistakes. This practice makes him or her more of a human being: subject to being fallible, but willing to be vulnerable and human. This behavior enables stronger rather than weaker leadership. It also leads to an environment that is more relaxed and healthy. In this culture, the problems are diminished and replaced with sanity and the joy of achieving great goals together. If you know an executive who is playing the Executive Whack-a-mole Game, print this article out and leave it someplace where it will get read.

If you are an executive who has nearly reached the limit of endurance, you might want to try investing in the culture. You will find it to have a much higher ROI than any other activity you can envision. It could even save your life!