It’s no surprise that your clothing and how you wear your clothing says a lot about you in your communications and negotiations. But what you may be surprised about is not that they say something, but what they say. This is the last in our series on the key skills in body language to master, but it certainly won’t be the last post we write on body language. Mastering your body language and non-verbals is a discipline you MUST pay attention to and that you MUST work on to improve your negotiations.
This series has covered:
- The Handshake
- Posture and Seating
- Head Tilting
- Eye Blinking
- Eye Movement
- Hand Use
What your clothing says about you may be significantly different than what you think it says about you. In my opinion, the days of the power tie are gone. No longer are negotiators relying on certain solid colour combinations and colour varieties to gain a dominant position over another negotiator. Not necessarily because they don’t work, but because the dominant vs. submissive style of negotiation is viewed as less effective than a negotiation that encompasses empathy and active listening. Therefore, the reliance on clothing to create that dominance is viewed as less effective.
Academics and psychologists would have you believe that people with higher social dominance (as displayed in their clothing) will get better deals. But in my experience, that’s only partly true. They may get good deals (not better deals), but in my experience, it’s much more effective to mirror the social status (social culture) of the other party to create association with the other party. If you’re dressed in a suit and you come to negotiate on an industrial site with a party dressed in coveralls, you just won’t be able to relate to them at a level that they feel comfortable to communicate how they truly feel. Ever come to an industrial site overdressed in a suit instead of a pair of jeans and a polo? You’ll never get hazed worse in the business world than by overdressing on an industrial site. And god forbid you show up in shiny new steel toed boots! There had better be scuff marks on those boots. In my experience, you’re much more likely to create a true sharing environment and extract more information if you’re dressed more like the other party than if you’re not. You never truly get all the information that you may need to put a great deal together if you’re overdressed or dressed too differently. What you wear tells the other party what they need to know about you. A suit on an industrial site tells the other party that they won’t be able to relate to you because you just don’t understand who they are.
Does this mean that you shouldn’t dress for success? Obviously not. You still need to be neat and well groomed, but it does mean that you should dress for the occasion and the audience.
Know your audience!
So much of negotiation and public peaking is so similar. If you go into a negotiation without first understanding the other party and their background, you run the risk of not dressing appropriately for the negotiation. How you dress for a negotiation with a stock broker is very different than how you dress for a negotiation with a trades person, especially if you’re having the negotiation at their place of business.
Honestly folks, I deviate a lot here from the popularly held beliefs of dressing in suits always. Your clothing type needs to be tailored to the situation and to the audience. You’ll never isolate someone more quickly than if you come into a situation overdressed and you’ll never isolate yourself more quickly than if you come into a situation under dressed.
I’m not here to tell you that you need to wear red power ties to create dominance. Personally, I think that’s BS. I think you need to think about who you’re negotiating with and dress as the person you think they’d be most open talking to. Dress for the occasion and the audience.