Signals We Send To Others

In my line of work, I see a lot of people on a daily basis; people who are largely unemployed, others who are underemployed. They share many things in common with one another, the most significant one being that they are first and foremost people. Obvious yes, but critically important to continually recognize.

Each one of these people has a past and present, and while they may be occupying the same visual space in front of me at any given time, it’s that past and present which they have uniquely lived which differentiates them from each other, and logically from me as well.

Interestingly enough however, if you are observant, you can make some good assumptions about people you see but have yet to interact with in conversation. From the way they dress, walk, what they carry with them, how social or private they are with others, what they are doing and their physical appearance, you can gather a great deal of information.

Now were you and I sitting down together and watching, we would see the same people, note the same things, but we might make inferences and form opinions based on what we observe very differently if we compared notes. This phenomenon is similar to having 6 witnesses to an accident who give very different interpretations of what they’ve just witnessed to a Police Officer. In those situations, you’d be asked to describe what you saw without making any personal interpretations or subjective statements.

Ah but you and I sitting side by side, our situation is slightly different. Here’s what our brains do with what’s before us. First of all we receive this stimulation; most of it visual, perhaps some of it auditory and we could pick up odours be they pleasant or foul. It’s less likely we’ve got any taste or touch stimuli. So the sight, sounds and smells are what we’ve got to work with. This information we take in and our brains start to assemble that information in ways that make sense for us.

By making sense to us, what’s happening is that our brain is organizing the data we’ve received, putting it together in a way that makes sense to us; and this is largely based on past encounters we’ve had with others in our lives that were similar. Hence a cologne or perfume someone wears might attract or repel us but it may remind us of someone we’ve known who wore that fragrance. The other thing is that with the organizing that is happening in our brain, we compartmentalize what we are experiencing. Does this person go in the harmless, danger, be on my guard, pleasurable or perhaps avoid interaction at all cost categories? Ever been walking down the street and you see someone coming towards you and you suddenly think it wise to cross the street to continue your way but avoid possible contact? Same thing.

Knowing this process is going on; receiving, processing and evaluating data in order to assess and predict with some certainty if a given interaction will be favourable or not, it’s safe to assume other people do it too. So what? Excellent question.

The answer of course is this; how we choose to dress, walk, act; the things we carry with us, our hygiene etc.; all these things are sending information to those around us. Other people are then using the data we’re sending to form opinions about us then before we’ve even said a word. If and when we do enter into verbal dialogue, those words will be additional information their brains take in; as will the handshake or hug give them touch stimuli, and a kiss perhaps some taste stimuli to add to their assessment of us. Although a hug and kiss are unlikely for a first encounter but some do greet each other this way as cultural norms.

Like me, you’ve got a lot of control over the signals and stimuli that you share with those with whom you come into contact with. Even if you pay little attention to your clothing and your grooming for example, you are still sending out information about yourself and the choice you made in how you are presenting yourself to the world.

You have control over these things I say. So it stands to reason then that if you are not attracting the right kind of attention; if you are not interacting with others in your life the way you’d like or having the impact on others you’d like, changing up some things will communicate different information and it will be received and processed by others differently. Stands to reason doesn’t it?

Now if you want others to take you professionally – for a job interview perhaps – and you want a favourable first impression, you have the power to package yourself differently and hence increase the odds of promoting yourself so you are received as you’d like to be. Do nothing, and how you’ve been successful or not in the past with others in your personal presentation is likely to remain unchanged. Without making a personal change at all, assuming you’ll have better luck or a different reaction isn’t wise.

Whether it’s a job interview, wanting to impress someone you find attractive or putting yourself in a favourable position in your existing job for some future promotion, pay attention to the cues you are sending to those around you.



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