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In a perfect world, substance will win over style every time. However, the truth of the matter is that you must look the part if you want to get ahead. When all your energy is focused on just carrying out your everyday tasks, it is very easy to let your wardrobe slip into a state of disrepair. Before you know it, your work clothes are tattered, too small, or, worse yet, out of style.
If your clothes don’t convey the message that you are competent, ambitious, self-confident, reliable and authoritative, nothing you say or do will overcome the negative signals emanating from your apparel.
The sad fact is that people will indeed judge you by your clothes. If you want to advance in the workplace, be promoted, look like someone authoritative, then start looking the part!
This might interest you: Should You Go Formal Or Casual At Work?
Wear straight lines in your garments
One of the easiest ways to project a no-nonsense, serious look, is to wear garments with straight lines. Curved lines convey fun, informality and relaxation. Blouses with lapels and sleeves project more authority and competence, compared with something sleeveless and with ruffles and lace. Similarly, striped ties will send an authoritative message compared with paisley.Soft garments drape over your body, giving it a casual and relaxed feel; whereas those that are boxy and stiff, project a formal outlook. So, choose something that is skewed towards boxy and stiff to increase your value in power.
The little touch that counts
Attention to detail can make a difference between mediocre and someone that looks polished, professional, and confident. Wear cuff links. Carry a briefcase instead of a purse. Pick pearl earrings over plastic ones. These items can help you exude power and confidence and thereby, project an authoritative impression.
What about women’s shoes? The undisputed dark-coloured, closed toe, one to two inches pumps. Clients do notice your shoes. So, your shoes must not look as if mice have nibbled on them. Heels are preferred for ladies, but it should not be so high that you trip on every single step. One to two inches are good. For men, opt for black polished dress shoes. The rule of thumb is that your work shoes should not look overly sexy, athletic and frumpy. And yes, this also means you should never wear Crocs.
Dark suits win hands down
Black, dark grey, dark blue are strong colours. If you want to project an image of strength and power, these are the colours you should go for. You may stray from these three colours, but keep the suit dark. For jackets and suits, the darker the colour, the higher the level of professionalism. The stronger the colour, the more powerful the wearer will be perceived.
Show less skin
Power up by covering your skin. All things equal, a longer-sleeved shirt has more power than a short-sleeved shirt, a knee-length skirt has more power than a mini-skirt, wearing pantyhose is more powerful than bare legs, because more skin is covered.
A general rule of thumb when dressing for power is to:
- raise the necklines; lower the hemlines
Behave like you mean business!
Stand tall and speak louder
When it comes to authority, having height helps. So stand straight! The squarer your shoulders, the more stable people will perceive you to be. Gentlemen – place both feet a little further from each other. Ladies – move a few steps around to claim your space. You are now sending a visual image “I am the boss!”
And when your posture is straight, this will help you speak a little louder. Higher volume projects higher authority, but you should increase only your volume, not your pitch. If your pitch goes up at the end of the sentence, it will seem as if you are asking a question. This will make you sound as if you are seeking approval and make you seem less authoritative.
Mind your words and eliminate disclaimers
Present your ideas to your clients confidently. Use short, concise sentences. A chunk of words can be a phrase or a short sentence. This will help you eliminate filler words like ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’. Pause between points and take your time to finish whatever you intend to say. And never start your sentence by apologising, “I am not sure if this is ok…” or “I may be wrong…” This will only show your weakness and insecurities.
Connect with your eyes and smile confidently
Linger your eye contact a few seconds longer and give a warm smile when you are talking to people. Eye connection makes what you say sound important and make the person you are talking to feel important. People will remember you and warm up to you when they sense you have paid attention, and have a sincere interest in them.
Lower your pitch
“I’ll be back,” says Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his low-pitched, deep voice. Imagine if he had said it in a shrilled, high-pitched, voice – it would have conveyed a totally different message altogether. Low-pitched deep voices command respect and suggest leadership qualities, whereas high-pitched voices are associated with weakness and submissive behaviour.
Schwarzenegger sounded authoritative, powerful, domineering, someone you will listen to. Ladies, while it is true that most males are attracted to feminine, soft-spoken women, if you are in a leadership position, I’d suggest you lower the pitch of your voice. People will take you seriously and pay more attention to you.