People usually have a dominant style acquired thru genes, upbringing and work experience, but they can still modify it, work on it, or tone it down. Its difficult to switch totally, but its possible to adapt. Style can be thought out, planned and executed.
--Tim Day, CEO Bar-s, Foods

Impressions and Perceptions

A common saying “First Impression is the last Impression” is not entirely true as image of others are our own perceptions and they can change over time, however in the current age where time is the most valuable asset, especially in business world, we usually have one shot at accomplishing a rapport with a prospect. Similarly, in social gatherings, we come across a variety of people and our brain constantly makes assumptions about others we come into contact with.

“55 Percent” is Dress and Physique

Research suggests that people size other people within the first three to four seconds of an encounter. Within the first thirty seconds, at least ten assumptions are made about the other person including Social status, Economic status, Educational attainment, Profession, Marital status, Ancestry, Trustworthiness, Credibility, and the likelihood of success. This is an unconscious process that our brain processes during a first encounter. Since we meet several people every day, and in order to categorize the process, our brain by default processes information based upon minimal knowledge prompting us on which individuals to associate with. So it would be fair to say that people are attracted to people based upon their appearance. When someone is dressed similarly to ourselves, we infer that they have somewhat similar beliefs, values, attitude and similar political affiliations. Dressing appropriately for the occasion emphasizes upon our individuality, therefore it is important to dress according to the occasion and within the guidelines of what could be classified as proper attire. Being over dressed at certain occasions could sometimes be sending out a signal of being un-approachable however being casually dressed in other situations could have a similar impact and sending the wrong signal. In Job Interviews, about seventy five percent of the decision to hire is based upon the applicant’s appearance. Research suggests that there could be an 8 to 20 percent variation in entry level salary offered based upon appearance alone.

“38 Percent” is Body Language & Voice

Without even saying a single word, our body communicates messages to others. Body motions are categorized in four groups. Group one consists of the “Emblems”. Typical example is a smile being a sign of happiness or a nod for a yes or no. Group two consists of the “Illustrators”. These are accompanied with verbal messages to support a point. For example, when we say the number five, we hold up five fingers or pointing at an individual in group settings to get their view point. Group three consists of the “Regulators”. For example, to end a conversation, one may look down or look the other way. Similarly, two people maintain eye contact to move a conversation along. Group four consists of the “Adaptors”. It helps us to deal with the feelings of uneasiness. For example, nervous habits such as playing with our clothing, tugging our ears, biting nails are all manifested in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations.

The eyes have been very rightly called “The windows of the soul”. How many times have we felt that when someone looked directly into our eyes, they could see right thru us. Shifty eyes are usually a sign of lack of truth or concealing facts. When someone is lying, the amount of eye contact is about one third less than when someone is telling the truth. When a teacher asks a question, heads go down immediately to avoid eye contact which would otherwise result in being called upon. To look at someone for extended timeframe usually indicates that we want to establish rapport with that person. The pupils of the eye are another strong communicator. When someone is excited or attracted, their pupils dilate. When a person is angry, unhappy with a conversation or is lying, the pupils of the eyes contract. In Business meetings, expert negotiators often look into the eyes of the other person to get a clue about the other party if they are excited, angry or uncomfortable. Expert poker players often look into the eyes of the opponent to judge if the pupils are dilated, indicating a good hand.

In addition, our face communicates our true emotions to others. There are six emotions that our face communicates to others without even saying a single word. The feeling of Happiness, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, Surprise and Fear. Though we might be communicating verbally, our face may be saying something else.

Our voice also communicates our state of mind. There are five main components of voice. “Pitch or inflection is the first most important element. A perfect Pitch should neither be too low neither too high but varied to prevent a monotone effect. The second element is “Voice Quality”. Does our voice have a nasal, harsh or shallow sound. The third element is “Speech intensity” or loudness of the voice. A loud person can drive people away whereas being too soft may frustrate listeners or may give a perception of being someone unable to command authority or credibility with subordinates. The fourth element of voice is “Rate”. It refers to how quickly someone speaks. If someone speaks too quickly, others might not comprehend him or her. Similarly speaking too slowly may frustrate the listener. The fifth element of voice is “Pause”. Pausing is extremely useful to give emphasis on certain points. Constant pausing however may give an impression of being unsure of what the person is saying.

“7 Percent” is Vocabulary and the words we use

Our vocabulary says a lot about what type of a person we are. We must avoid foul language and slang in our vocabulary even if we hear others using it. Every language has plenty of words to choose from. We have a beautiful sounding voice but foul language and slang would totally tarnish our image. Having a good grasp of grammar is very important. A pleasant voice can be undercut by the wrong use of tenses, pronouns, verbs or other incorrect use of the language. Faulty pronunciation gives a bad image to the listener. If proper pronunciation is not known of a word, one should avoid using it. Another common problem is faulty enunciation. Does “Want to” sounds like “Wanna”? Does supposed to sounds like “Possa”?. Effective enunciation stems from enunciating the constants properly, not just the vowels.

Ahsan Bashir