The ABC’s Of Image
We talk about image a lot here at the office. What, exactly, is image?
image – noun
- a representation of the external form of a person or thing in art
- the general impression that a person, organization, or product presents to the public
The second definition above is what we’ll hone in on. The “you” that you present to the world is an often-overlooked but integral ingredient in the recipe for personal and professional success. But, what exactly comprises a person’s image?
Image consultants like those at Henry A. Davidsen often break image down into three main components, referred to as “The ABC’s Of Image”:
Below, we’ll give an overview of each aspect of image, and we’ll dive into more details with additional, deeper posts on each individual aspect of image. With that said, remember that a whole image is greater than the sum of its parts.
Appearance, behavior, and communication are all inextricably linked, and all three aspects are important. When all three are honed and working in harmony, you are presenting your best self to the world.
Appearance – How You Present Yourself Physically
Everyone is at least tangentially familiar with the importance of appearance. We know that we have about ten seconds to make a good first impression on an interviewer or potential romantic partner, and we know that it’s disrespectful to show up to, say, a funeral decked out in a bright suit with a huge boutonnière in your lapel.
Appearance naturally deals with the clothes that you wear. Your clothing should fit well, be in good repair, laundered as necessary, and color- and pattern-coordinated.
An excellent way to manage your appearance is to have your clothes made for you. The made-to-measure and custom clothing options here at Henry A. Davidsen are manifold and will ensure that your clothes fit properly and are well constructed. Our expertise positions us to guide you in terms of colors that work best for you, how to mix patterns, and anything else relating to clothes.
While your wardrobe is important, clothing isn’t the only aspect of appearance.
Grooming is a hugely important part of one’s appearance. By all means, walk into a job interview wearing a fully custom, handmade, not-inexpensive suit. But if you do so without having showered, shaved, or combed your hair, do you think that suit is going to have the same effect?
Hint: The answer is “no.”
Thankfully, most men’s grooming routines involve minimal time investment. Showering, brushing your teeth, and shaving are all standard practices that you hopefully have in place already. Feel free to ask us about hair products, fragrances, and other grooming questions.
Behavior – How You Conduct Yourself
Next in line is behavior, or how you act, particularly as it relates to others.
Our parents do their best to instill good behavioral practices in us from a young age. This is why, when we notice someone acting out of line, we say that he “wasn’t raised right.”
The key to behaving in a way that projects your most impactful image is character. That is, are you dependable? Are you honest? How about loyal and empathetic?
These are somewhat nebulous concepts, so let’s break it down even further:
Manners: The rules we learned in kindergarten still apply. Are you polite to those with whom you interact? Do you say “please” and “thank you”? Do you treat others with respect? Perhaps most relevant in the 21st century, are you ignoring the person you’re with because you’re reading this on a phone?
There’s much more to manners than what’s laid out above, but the important thing to remember is that you need to have them!
Conscientiousness: Do you take your obligations seriously, regardless of whether they’re professional or personal? Are you self-disciplined?
Etiquette: More protocol-driven than general manners, etiquette requires some specialized, if sometimes rudimentary, knowledge. For example, do you know which utensils to use and when at dinner? Do you show up in the proper dress code for events that require it? Do you notify people when they’re on speakerphone, and do your emails include a greeting, body, and a signature?
Communication – What You Say & How You Say It
The third and final component of image is communication. A helpful rule of thumb to keep in mind is the 70/20/10 rule, which means that communication is:
- 70% body language
- 20% tone of voice
- 10% the actual words you use
This percentage breakdown comes as a shock to a lot of people, but it makes sense if you think about it. Humans communicated for eons before the creation of spoken language, and body language and tone of voice were paramount in communicating with others.
Have you ever folded your arms in front of you when having an argument? Have you ever tried speaking with someone at a bar only to quit when they never turned their body towards you? Whether or not we consciously realize it, we’re still wired to pick up on these non-verbal cues. You can tell when someone’s body language is communicating ease or anxiousness, and we’re suspicious of those who avert their eyes when talking with you. Be conscious of what your body is telling others and what theirs is telling you!
Tone Of Voice
Tone of voice conveys plenty of meaning that our words fail to. Those of us who’ve worked in sales, customer service, or other phone-driven lines of work have been told time and again that your clients and prospects can “hear a smile” on the other end of the phone.
While it may seem silly, there’s truth to it. The tone, inflection, and/or emphasis with which you say your words can and will change your meaning. While it’s a challenge to convey tone in written communication (more on that in the next section), take this sentence, for example:
“I can’t believe you did that.”
“I can’t beLIEVE you did that,” will likely convey negativity. The tone used invokes disappointment and frustration.
“I can’t believe you DID that,” conveys a sense of being impressed or pleasantly surprised, like a parent of a young child who unexpectedly learned a new word.
“I can’t believe you did THAT,” indicates disbelief in a specific action.
Can you hear the difference in your head?
Words You Use & Written Communication
Finally, the words you use to communicate influence the image you wish to project. It’s beneficial for everyone to have a robust vocabulary, but tailor its usage to your audience.
Are you looking to be perceived as accessible and friendly? Use uncomplicated language. Do you want to be perceived as “in the know” for a particular industry or walk of life? Learn the jargon and use it.
Email has been the standard for business communication since the turn of the century. Since the release of the iPhone in 2007 and the subsequent ubiquity of smartphones, texting has become increasingly popular even for business, and lines have begun to blur.
It’s too common nowadays to communicate with colleagues and clients with spelling error-laden texts that have unclear punctuation. Here’s a brief guide to making sure you put forth your best image when writing to your colleagues:
- Emails (at least those beginning a thread) should include a greeting, body message, and signature.
- Get express permission to text a professional contact before doing so. Respect business hours, and avoid emojis, abbreviations, and .gifs.
- Ellipsis (three periods in a row) have a tendency to make people think that you want to say something, but are choosing not to. This naturally causes discomfort. Take a look at the example below:
“I don’t think that’s how we should do it.”
“I don’t think that’s how we should do it…”
Can you perceive the difference between those two sentences?
Tying It All Together
Your image is a powerful tool that you can use to manage how others perceive you personally and professionally. Being conscious of the “ABC’s” of image will ensure that people remember you, but only for the right reasons.