Alok Gupta, the Regional Head of Financial Crime Analytics at one of the leading banks in Dubai, held a good position at work, but there were times when he felt sidelined and not taken seriously by his peers and seniors. After some self-assessment, he decided to alter his image, thereby changing the way people responded to him. And surely, things began to change. People began to take notice of him (in the right ways) and he is much happier now at his workplace.
When Image Matters
According to a research by the Harvard Study of Communications, one forms an impression within just 5–7 secs of meeting a person.
These impressions can be based on the shoes the person is wearing, the way he/she shake hands to the tone of his/her voice—it can be just about anything or everything about that person.
Dr. Michael Sunnafrank, Professor in the Department of Communication, College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, coined a theory based on the science of First Impressions called the ‘Predicted Value Outcome Theory’, which says that a person will have decided the outcome of his interaction within the first few secs of meeting you. If the predicted outcome is positive the interaction will be increased and vice-versa—it’s more like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is imperative then that you are always aware of what and how you portray yourself to the outer world. The world will perceive and form an image of you based on what it sees. The impression formed about you will affect the way the world then interacts with you, which in turn will affect your success.
So what is Image Management?
Barbara Walters, the famous American broadcast journalist, author, and television personality, had said, “There are times in life when it isn’t too melodramatic to say that your destiny lies in the impression you make.”
And would she be right! Impressions are very important because they can be the determining factor between sure-shot success and the classic miss between the cup and the lip. The impression one makes, fortunately or unfortunately, is the all-important factor for people to choose if they want to go ahead with their interaction with you or not, be it socially or professionally. After all people like to do business with people they like & trust.
Positive self-representation increases your confidence & credibility and is an open invitation for others to get to engage with you more, contributing to continuing success. Some people have a natural ability to present themselves in a charismatic way. Some, however, are not there yet. Building up an Image that is authentic, attractive, appropriate & affordable is a skill that everyone can learn and apply to influence personal & professional success.
All it requires is an understanding of the five broader fundamental elements that make up a person’s Image—the A B C D E of image, as it is called.
- Appearance & Grooming
- Body Language & Behaviors
- Digital Footprint
- Energetic Imprint
Each of these elements has within them a myriad of sub-elements that together contribute to your overall image. It is not only about creating a good impression, but also an image that’s lasting in the mind of others long after they have left you.
The Art and Science of Image Management
Managing one’s image is a science because it has elements, and it is an art because if these elements do not come together in beautiful harmony, what you will get is a picture that others and you yourself may not like or appreciate.
When you meet someone, what you first see is their appearance, then comes body language & behavior and lastly communication. At all times, you will also sense their energies, or vibes, as we better know it as, which is greatly influenced by thoughts, belief systems and their aura. You might have also looked up their social media profiles (Insta, FB, LinkedIn), which by the way speaks a lot about a person from all that is expressed by way of information, words, pictures, comments and shares.
Even before we exchange a “Hello,” we have alreday created an impression in our mind, which will ultimately decide the future interaction and relationship with each other.
Can an impression be changed?
Yes, certainly. That is where the idiom ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ brings relief. However, for that to happen, a person has to be in constant contact with the other for a period of at least eight to ten months. But this is, in a sense, luxury, for this can happen only if the person is within your circles for that period. Even then, the scales can tip either ways.
Conversely, when given a choice, what will hold true in all cases is the phrase—‘First impression is the last impression.’ If you fail to create an impact in the minds of someone in the first few moments of meeting them, most people will likely not meet or be inclined to interact with you a second time.
Image management is all about respect—respect for the self and others as well as respect for occasions, roles, and goals at home, in the school, in the community and at the workplace. It is about being a creator of your own destiny as Barbara rightly says. Your image is your identity. Own it to let the world know you have arrived.
Try these tips
- Coordinate your socks with your trousers and not with your shoes.
- Match your metals –
- watches, buckles, shoe adornments, eye- frames, accessories.
- Watch your hand-shake – firm, not limp & loose.
- At the table wait for your host to begin eating.
- ALL CAPS in email is akin to shouting.
- Greet the person with their name.
- LinkedIn is not a social platform. Photos of cats, babies and night-outs is a misfit here.