Know how everyone says you can’t judge a book by its cover?
Well I’m sorry to have to break this to you, but it’s a load of crap.
I’m of the opinion that if you look like a slob, you’re probably a slob.
YOU GET JUDGED EVERY TIME YOU MEET SOMEONE NEW
EVERYONE judges someone the minute they meet them, this is a raw, biological instinct to do so.
Anyone who says that they do not have a gut instinct or opinion that forms within the first 5 minutes of meeting someone new is a liar.
- Men & women judge potential mates when they first meet them to see if this could turn into something awesome
- Business rivals judge each other and size up their competition to gauge where they might stand relative to them
- Customers judge professionals they meet and assess instinctively whether they will be the right fit for them or not
This is why it is really important to present the right image because first impressions (formed within 5 minutes) count for the long-term.
YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SOMEONE… BUT IT TAKES LONGER THAN 5 MINUTES
Even if you are able to stop yourself, correct your initial judgement and think:
Okay this person looks like a slob but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’re absolutely brilliant at their job, and their appearance really doesn’t mean squat.
…it takes you a minute or two to stop yourself and use your rationality to remind yourself that people are not who they seem on the surface, and you will be conscious to go forward and re-judge this person with an open mind rather than just going instinctively on your first impressions.
EVEN SO, I TEND TO TRUST MY GUT INSTINCT
Some people have a knack for sizing up someone the minute they meet them and to somehow get a feel for the person within the first 5 minutes that proves to be quite accurate.
I have no scientific proof that I can do this and be right 100% of the time, but generally, my first impressions of someone are usually spot on.
I absolutely credit my father for giving me this intuition or knack, because he has the same ability to meet someone and within 10 minutes have a feel for what kind of person they are based on his previous experiences with others who have acted or talked in the same way (mannerisms and all). He also passed it on to my brother.
Of course, instincts can always be wrong — someone who seems like a good person can turn out to be a snake and vice versa.
My mother however, is awful at this.
She cannot discern within 10 minutes if the person is a trustworthy person or a snake because she is far too trusting of everyone around her.
How does this work?
Honestly, I think you need the ability to act like a snake to be able to recognize another snake, especially if you are someone who is generally suspicious or mistrustful of others.
That’s not to say that you will ever use this rather dubious snake-y quality, but you have the ability or capacity to do so, and this makes you a better, quick judge of character than those who don’t have a snake-like bone in their body.
(Yes, I totally realize that I am pretty much confessing that I could be a snake; I admit it..! But it doesn’t mean I am one all the time, only when the situation calls for it.)
A good book that goes into detail about first impressions and gut instincts is this one:
FIRST IMPRESSIONS CAN BE QUITE ACCURATE
I went to visit a doctor and within the first 5 minutes, I had an instinct that I didn’t like her and wouldn’t be happy.
I couldn’t really tell you what it was, except that my first impressions were a flurry of thoughts like this:
- Her hair is a mess
- She talks like a scatterbrained dodo
- I hate her shoes
- Her coat is dirty and unkempt
- She has an overall disheveled appearance to her
- She mumbles, I hate mumblers
- She doesn’t speak very precisely
I told myself:
Self, you’re being an idiot.
She’s a doctor.
She OBVIOUSLY passed a filter somewhere and became a doctor because she wanted to, and she’s smart. Don’t be a judgmental moron based on her clothes, let’s give her a chance.
For me, my first impression and going just on it without trying to give the benefit of the doubt would have been akin to saying:
Hey that person must be rich, she’s decked out head-to-toe in designer logos and has perfectly blow-dried hair.
(even though she actually has $0 in the bank and is $50,000 in debt)
Yet after 3 visits, I switched doctors.
My instincts were pretty much spot on, but they were just based on the way she looked, and then I put those first impressions out of my mind and rationalized with myself that I had to give her the benefit of the doubt and re-assess my opinion of her each time I saw her.
Turns out, she WAS a disorganized, hot mess.
She made mistakes on my chart, booked unnecessary appointments, always seemed to be late or in a rush which made me feel like she didn’t care enough about me as a patient to spend even 10 minutes discussing all the options available to me, and she missed a lot of details.
In fact, she never reviewed my chart before seeing me, and it was like a brand new meeting each time I met with her.
I knew my chart inside and out, so I would actually remind her of things she missed!
I get that doctors have a lot of patients day-in and day-out, but there is no shame in taking a few minutes before each meeting to review a patient’s chart, get into the mindset of who you are diagnosing, and then talk to them.
I’d be relieved to have a doctor to would rather take a little time to read over and check my chart before seeing me each time, than to have a doctor who thinks she has memorized it all and doesn’t need to review anything, and would rather wing the appointment.
You may be the smartest person in the world, but if you can’t pay attention to the details and to make sure that you are accurate and precise, you are as useless to me as the average Joe Schmoe on the street who wears a doctor’s coat and read a book online on how to deal with sick people.
PEOPLE WHO CARE ABOUT THE WAY THEY LOOK, ALSO CARE ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE IN THEIR LIFE TO A CERTAIN EXTENT
This is kind of my belief, that if someone takes the time (even 5 minutes) to care about the way they look, it means they take the time to care about everything else in their life.
You don’t need to be dressed in high-end, sleek designer clothing, but your clothes do have to be wrinkle-free, neat and clean.
You should at least care enough about yourself to brush your hair, brush your teeth so that they’re clean (no need for them to be toilet bowl white), and not have a body odour.
..and if you are a professional, you should at least learn how to present yourself as a calm and in-charge rather than rushed, scatter-brained and disorganized.
You don’t need to look mundane or dress “conventionally” in matching sweater sets and high heels to look professional (heck you could have tattooed arms for all I care).
Sometimes when I am sitting on the bus or on the train, I’ll immediately know if someone is in charge of their life or not, and sometimes it has nothing to do with the clothes that they wear.
I notice things like…
- if they are unable to find their metro pass easily to get on the bus because they didn’t organize themselves the night before
- if their purse or bag (when opened) looks like an office hurricane vomited in it with crumpled papers, half eaten bars of candy, etc
- if they take money or have change and just drop it into their purse instead of putting it away carefully, then they spend time digging
- if they are carrying many little bags (a lunch bag, purse, laptop bag) and struggling to keep them all in place while walking
.. all these little things signal to me that this person is not organized or conscientious because they haven’t taken the time to get their act together for the simple tasks they have to complete each day as a human.
EACH JOB HAS ITS OWN STANDARD OF BEING PROFESSIONAL
For me, this idea of being presentable and professional is not unique to white-collar professionals such as doctors or lawyers.
Someone who works in construction for instance, cannot be expected to be in crisp, clean clothes day-in and day-out (what a silly idea!), but they at least are not wearing pants that are belted at their knees, with 5 rings on each hand or with really long unkempt hair that they’ve styled into some inconvenient hairdo that keeps getting in the way of them being able to do their job.
Someone who is a lawyer
THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO CAN GET AWAY WITH LOOKING LIKE “SLOBS” ARE THOSE WHO ARE ALREADY PROVEN
The only people who can get away with dressing however they want and not caring (to some extent) are people who have already proven themselves and do not need to say anything, this includes brilliant mathematicians such as Albert Einstein, iconic business figures such as the late Steve Jobs who always wore a black turtleneck and jeans, or that young upstart Mark Zuckerberg who doesn’t give a damn what he wears.. and so on.
Or even researchers who are in their field of expertise but are well regarded as complete geniuses.
They could show up in a potato sack and sweatpants to lecture students, and while some might smile at their choice of an outfit, NO ONE WOULD CARE because their brain is so amazing.
These folks have already proven their salt.
We wouldn’t care what they wore because we have already rationalized beyond first impressions, and have seen that their unusual appearance is minor compared to who they are as people.
EACH SITUATION AND ENVIRONMENT ALSO CALLS FOR A CERTAIN STANDARD
As a consultant, I know that being professional not only means wearing the right things, but it also means avoiding the wrong things; this sounds like the same difference but it isn’t.
I know for instance I should not be in the office with a strapless top, it is showing far too much bare skin, and if I wore such a top, I should at least cover my shoulders, even in the summer.
I also know that no matter how casual the business environment, I am NOT to show up in flip flops, or at the other extreme, 4″ f*ck-me heels.
I can decide to dress however the hell I want on my own time, but there is a time and a place for every outfit and style.
For instance, I certainly wouldn’t go into a rowdy nightclub wearing a turtleneck, and a buttoned-up suit with low, chunky heels!!
So yes, if you look like a slob all the time, you are probably are a slob, either in your lack of organization and/or lack of care you take in having a presentable, neat appearance.