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The Power of Perception

I never really understood the power of perception until I was in my early 20’s.  I remember it like it was yesterday, I was going out for those first job interviews.  I had on a three button black pinstripe suit with a nice silk polka dot necktie and a white spread collar shirt; you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t clean!  Up until then I wasn’t really into dressing up, my average day was jeans and a polo shirt or a t-shirt.  I used to remember the looks I’d get from my older peers of other ethnic backgrounds and even some from my own.  Not that I ever sagged my jeans or tried to perpetuate a gangster image but it was always a sense of unknowing from older adults when they’d see a young black male dressed in urban clothing. 

I walked on the elevator of an office building with my leather portfolio in hand and resume ready to get that job!  As I approached the elevator doors an older gentleman held the door for me and said hello sir you look very nice today.  He too was dressed in a beautiful suit, shirt and tie with shiny black capped toe dress shoes.  We exchanged a brief conversation as I went to my interview for which I did land the job.  On my way home that day I thought about the reactions I got from people when I was “dressed to impress” as they say.  I received several hello’s, compliments, and acts of kindness throughout that day from various individuals which once I really thought about it never really happened on an average day.  At that moment I began to understand the power of perception and how one’s appearance can speak volumes before we even utter a word or break down initial communication barriers with others.   

From then on I really began to enjoy dressing up and wearing shirts and ties.  I remember when my girlfriend at the time, now my beautiful wife took me shopping for my first office job.  We went to a local men’s store and I racked up on suits shirts, and ties.  I began to love the feeling of dressing nice on a daily basis and the confidence I gained just from wearing a suit.  It was like I walked with my back a little straighter and a different swagger about myself.  I was still the same intelligent, respectful young man I always was but before people got a chance to know me but, all of a sudden my outward image matched linked up with my true personality.

Every day I see young men and women going throughout their days full of dreams, ambition, hopes and powerful ideas.  These are all things I know they possess because in all of us we have a will and determination be successful and do amazing things.  When I have the opportunity to sit down and talk to young people I always ask them does the outside match up with what’s on the inside of you?  In a presentation that I do from time to time called “The Power of Perception” I pose the question do you make assumptions about someone based on their appearance, and almost always most young people say no.  Then I may ask how many of you have a boyfriend, girlfriend, or a crush?  Almost all of them do, and my question is” what did you think the first time you saw them”?  I get some crazy but fun responses but mostly the responses are based on physical characteristics.  Through that exchange of a real world use of perception I try to get them to understand that this is an innate sense that we all have.

There is nothing wrong with making an assumption because sometimes we can be right.  The powerful point that we have to understand is that our appearance does make a difference.  I know some people may read this and say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but, I challenge you to think back on how many assumptions you make about people on a daily basis.  Even more so it is vital that we teach these lessons to young men and women and encourage them to put their best foot forward in their dress and appearance even if they are wearing a pair of jeans, just make sure they fit.  A great book I recommend that addresses this topic in more detail is by a good business acquaintance and friend of Windsor Neckwear, Mr. Alex O. Ellis entitled “Restoring the Male Image” in which the foreword is written by Mr. Alfred Edmond Jr.  So the next time you leave the house or before your child walks out the door ask the question “does how I look today match up with who I am, and what I want to accomplish”?



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