Five Tips to Improve Your Personal Curb Appeal
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I’ve learned a few things about selling a house. I know, for instance, that
much depends on timing (economic timing as well as the time of year you put the
house on the market), and of course the mantra “location, location, location” is
still paramount. I’ve also found out that a property needs “curb appeal.” That
is, it needs to make a special, positive, and instant impression when
prospective buyers first see it. So when I read Drew Westen’s fabulous book, The
Political Brain (about the role of emotion in politics), I wasn’t at all
surprised to learn that curb appeal is also crucial in political campaigns.
Of course, Westen is referring to personal curb appeal. According to Westen,
“One of the main determinants of electoral success,” he explains, “is simply a
candidate’s curb appeal. Curb appeal is the feeling voters get when they ‘drive
by’ a candidate a few times on television and form an emotional impression.”
Research shows that personal curb appeal can be assessed quickly.
Psychologists Nalini Ambady and Bob Rosenthal conducted experiments involving
what they called “thin slices of behavior.” These studies have been referenced
in numerous writings - most famously, in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink. In one
such study, subjects watched a 30-second clip of college teachers at the
beginning of a term and rated them on characteristics such as accepting, active,
competent, and confident. The results were startling. Raters were able to
accurately predict how students would evaluate those same teachers at the end of
Personal curb appeal is also primarily a nonverbal process. When Ambady and
Rosenthal turned off the audio portion of the teachers’ video clip, so that
subjects had to rely only on body language cues, the accuracy of their 30-second
predictions remained just as high.
How’s your personal curb appeal? When your co-workers, clients, and business
partners “drive by” you, how do you come across? If you’d like to improve, here
are five tips to keep in mind:
1) Dress for success.
Joyce is a successful educator and entrepreneur. One of the secrets of her
success is the way she dresses. Even when traveling for a vacation, Joyce is in
a business suit and heels. Her motto: “Wear great clothes. You never know whom
When it comes to curb appeal, the way you dress matters. A lot. Clothing has
an effect on both the observer and the wearer. It has been proven that people
are more likely to give money (charitable donations, tips) or information to
someone if that person is well dressed. And, if you’d ever watched actors at
their first dress rehearsal, you’d be convinced of the power of the right
costume to powerfully impact what the wearer feels.
Dressing for success doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to wear a suit to
work. Many organizations have a more casual dress code. But it does mean that
whatever you wear should help you make the statement that you are a competent
2) Maintain positive eye contact.
Eye contact is most effective when both parties feel its intensity is
appropriate for the situation. This may differ with introverts/extroverts,
men/women, or between different cultures. But, in general, greater eye contact
-- especially in intervals lasting four to five seconds --almost always leads to
Looking at someone's eyes transmits energy and indicates interest. As long as
you are looking at me, I believe that I have your full attention. In my book,
The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work, I offer a
simple way to improve your likeability factor: Whenever you greet a business
colleague, remember to look into her eyes long enough to notice what color they
3) Learn to speak the body language of inclusion.
Back-to-back doesn’t do it. But belly-to-belly – facing people directly when
talking with them – does. Even a quarter turn away signals your lack of interest
and makes the speaker shut down.
Remove barriers between you and the other person. Take away things that block
your view. Move the phone or stacks of paper on your desk. Better still, come
out from behind your desk and sit next to the person you’re dealing with.
Use palm-up hand gestures when speaking. Keeping your movements relaxed,
using open arm gestures, and showing the palms of your hands -- all are silent
signals of credibility and candor. Individuals with open gestures are perceived
more positively and are more persuasive than those with closed gestures (arms
crossed, hands hidden or held close to the body, etc.).
Synchronize your body language to mirror your partner’s. Subtly match his
stance, arm positions and facial expressions. You may not realize, by the way,
that you do this naturally with people you genuinely like or agree with. It’s a
way of nonverbally signaling that you are connected and engaged.
4. Use your head.
The next time you are in a conversation where you’re trying to encourage the
other person to speak more, nod your head using clusters of three nods at
regular intervals. Research shows that people will talk three to four times more
than usual when the listener nods in this manner. You’ll be amazed at how this
single nonverbal signal can trigger such a positive response.
Head tilting is another signal that you are interested and involved. As such,
head tilts can be very positive cues when you want to send messages of empathy
and understanding. But a tilted head is also subconsciously processed as a
submission signal. (Dogs will tilt to show their necks in deference to a more
dominant animal.) And in business negotiations with men, women – who tend to
head-tilt the most – should keep their heads straight up in a more neutral
5) Activate your smile power.
A smile is an invitation, a sign of welcome. It says, “I’m friendly and
approachable.” The human brain prefers happy faces, recognizing them more
quickly than those with negative expressions. In fact, a smile is such an
important signal to social interaction that it can be recognized from 300 feet
-- more than a football field away.
Most importantly, smiling directly influences how other people respond to
you. When you smile at someone, they almost always smile in return. And, because
facial expressions trigger corresponding feelings, the smile you get back
actually changes that person’s emotional state in a positive way. This one
simple act will instantly and powerfully increase your curb appeal.
Drew Westen found that, after party affiliation, the most important predictor
of how people vote is their emotional reaction (gut feeling) toward the
candidate. I found similar results in the work place. We all want to do business
with and work for people who come across as friendly, trustworthy, competent,
confident, and empathetic.
I can’t guarantee you’ll win a political election. But improve your curb
appeal and I will guarantee that you’ll be more successful in your career.
About the Author
Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.is an international
Keynote speaker on collaborative leadership and the impact of
language in the workplace.
coach to executives to improve their leadership presence and
Leadership blogger for Forbes and author of "The Silent Language of
Leaders: How Body Language Can Help - or Hurt - How You Lead.”
Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com Authors Google+
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-12-21 18:45:59 in Personal Articles