dress the part…
There are many cliches out there to suggest that the path of life may be circular: history repeats itself and what goes around comes around perhaps being the two most popular. Whether you buy into these theories or not, it’s always been interesting to ponder these moments when they occur, and the latest version is proof: my life has come full circle.
There was a time about 10 years ago that my friend and VT guru, Dr. Bob Sanet, pulled me aside to discuss my wardrobe. The consummate professional as always, this was an opportunity to bequeath knowledge to a younger padawan, and to further impart his wisdom on those around him. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the value in his message was far deeper than the words might suggest. Simply put, he wanted me to wear a tie and frankly, I was having none of it. After all, it’s not like I was coming to work in cargo shorts and a beer t-shirt. My khakis and golf shirt were serving me well enough.
Well, sort of.
In the years since, a lot has changed. I’ve grown up, for one. I’ve also realized that no matter how we try to not be judgmental based on a person’s appearance, we are. We cannot help it. If you are pumping gas and you are approached by a man dressed in a suit, you most likely will have a much different internal reaction that if he was wearing a greasy t-shirt, dirty jeans and a backwards baseball cap. Both encounters may be innocuous, but chances are your approach and perhaps even defenses will be much different. It’s just how it works.
The same premise applies in the VT room. People will value or devalue our opinions largely based on our non-verbal communication – body language and how we’re dressed. I know, I know – we’re on the floor, we’re rolling around, suits and skirts are uncomfortable…I get it, believe me. Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the facts.
Dale Carnegie has a section in his teachings called “dress the part”. It’s an exercise in non-verbal communication whereby you’re conveying your level of seriousness, intensity and commitment to the situation by dressing appropriately in a given situation. You wouldn’t arrive at a formal dinner in jeans and a tank top, you wouldn’t show up to receive an award and your local Rotary wearing your baseball cap, and hopefully you wouldn’t go to a job interview in cargo shorts and beer t-shirt, all the while smacking your bubble gum. In all situations you dress the part to make the best impression you can. As an interesting ending to this thought, our office recently ordered some very nice polo type golf shirts with our logo embroidered on the chest for the entire staff. Probably the only acceptable replacement for a shirt and tie in VT, and to be honest, we look much more like a unified, intelligent and cohesive bunch when we are “in uniform”.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been on a “demonstrating value” kick with respect to my work and Vision Therapy as a whole. As a matter of fact, I have an entire post committed to the topic which hopefully will soon suffer it’s last few tweaks and be posted for your enjoyment. In researching information for that writing, I was surprised to read that close to 90% of all human communication is non-verbal – give or take – depending on the source.
What does that mean? It means someone should remind me to thank Dr. Sanet for yet another lesson learned next time I see him. He was right. Again.
It also means patients will value our opinion more if we dress like we know what we’re talking about. If we want people to take us seriously, we have to take ourselves seriously.
Dress the part.