Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Stories We Tell Without Realizing It

Professional presence can be thought of as a combination of how we carry ourselves, how we dress, and how we come across in general. In other words, presence is the nonverbal and verbal aspects of our presentation working together to create an impression.

Any single component of our presence can change the combination and alter the perception--often beyond the conscious awareness of others. For example, as a psychology major in college I remember hearing about a study in which random people were videotaped walking down the street. The videos were then shown to prisoners who were in jail for mugging. The goal of the study was to help people avoid the behaviors that made them appealing targets for muggers.

As expected, there were certain people who appeared to be easy targets because they were walking with their heads down or were somehow preoccupied. But there were other people every mugger agreed would be a target even though they didn't seem out of the ordinary in any way. Strangely, the muggers were at a loss to describe exactly why these people looked vulnerable. The researchers were confused as well--until they went back and reviewed the tapes. That's when they discovered that these people were doing something subtly different than the average person. Rather than swing their arms the way most people do, left-arm/right leg, right arm/left leg, they were swinging them left arm/left leg, right arm/right leg. As a result, they looked slightly off-balance and therefore more vulnerable.

I mention this study because there are a variety of obvious and not-so-obvious ways we can impact the way we come across personally and professionally. Even if you think the image you project is positive and strong, there may still be opportunities for improvement.

When my clients and colleagues need help with their overall professional presence, which is outside my area of expertise, the person I turn to most is Susan Fignar. In short, Susan teaches people how to improve their image and enhance their personal and professional success. Other benefits of working with Susan include:
  • Developing self-confidence and project self-assurance.
  • Becoming a better observer of yourself and others.
  • Identifying negative body language, facial expressions, and nervous gestures.
  • Appearing more polished and professional in your overall appearance.
  • Understanding the importance of selecting the appropriate business, business casual, and casual attire for your lifestyle, position, and professional environment.
  • Developing poise in business and social situations.
Whether you work with Susan or another equally capable professional, there is a tremendous value in addressing any issues you might have in this area. This is especially true for people in transition who need every possible advantage to get ahead in this market.

Having personally experienced the benefits of Susan's insight, what I appreciate most is her willingness to provide candid, constructive feedback. It's not always easy to hear how we create negative impressions. However, it is so much better to have the opportunity to make mid-course corrections than to fly in the dark, make the same mistakes, and wonder why life isn't going the way we'd like.

Even if you don't think you need it, make an appointment. You might be in for a surprise. Susan can be reached via her website: www.pur-sue.com.