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I help seasoned professionals leave their ill-fitting work lives behind in order to find more aliveness, fulfillment, and ultimately, success that truly feels good. 



Are you more naturally approachable or intimidating?

Kelly Studer

I recently learned that we all naturally appear somewhere on the continuum of being either more friendly or formal to others.  We don't really have a choice in the matter.  We're born the way we are with our own unique physical attributes which can dictate an unconscious perception in other people's eyes. Once you know where you fall on the continuum, you'll start to recognize patterns in the way people interact with you. Have you ever been told that you come across as intimidating, which you think is absurd and you have no idea why they say that?  You! Intimidating?  That's nuts!

Do an inordinate number of people seem to open up and share their most intimate feelings with you (maybe even total strangers)?  These are two extremes of the friendly vs. formal bookends.

Whichever the case, find out where you fall between the two and learn ways in which you can strategically influence your visual impression for maximum effect.


Note which attribute in each columns most closely describes you.  Then, add up the number of attributes you checked off from each column.

As you may have guessed, the left hand column represents "Formal" attributes and the right hand column indicates "Friendly" ones.  On the chart below, note how many attributes you have from each column and if you are more heavily weighted towards one side or the other.  If you fall right in the middle this means you are more easily able to alternate between these two opposites as needed.

So, what are you supposed to do with this information exactly?  Great question!  A colleague of mine, Karen Snow, who is a phenomenal color analysis expert, explained it all to me in the most memorable way.  Who is the most approachable and friendly person you can think of?  Santa Claus!! Why is he this way so naturally?  Well, if you look at all of the attributes in the friendly column above, you can see that he fits every single one of them.  His skin, hair, and eyes are all light in color which equals low contrast coloring.  He's round, has sparkly eyes, and soft, wrinkled skin. He even wears clothes that are touchable and soft and he often appears relaxed and jolly.  What could be more welcoming?

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have Dracula.  Drac (as I like to call him) is all angles, has jet black hair (with way too much hair gel), pale white skin, wears black, smooth and shiny clothes (gotta love that leather cape) which are in stark contrast to his skin, and he stands very straight and tall.  He's pretty darn intimidating, right?  He clearly fits every attribute in the formal category.

How does this relate to you?  Well, let's imagine that we wanted Drac to teach Sunday School.  Would you send him in to greet small children with the way he currently dresses and grooms himself?  Heck no!  They'd all run screaming.  If I were Drac's image consultant, I would take all of that hair gel out and mess it up a bit, put him in a soft, cashmere cardigan sweater that is closer in color to his skin tone, and have him relax his body a bit more.  If you got to know Drac, you'd find out he's actually a really sweet guy and he doesn't know why everyone is so scared of him! He just wasn't aware that he was dressing in a way that hightened his intimidation based on his natural physical features.

What if Santa needed to give a presentation to a bunch of executives on the topic of global warming? Do you think he would gain the credibility and authority he desires with his current look?  He wants to be taken seriously and authoritative on the subject, not just some nice guy who laughs at all of your jokes.  Santa may benefit, in this situation, from wearing something that is more angular, smooth, and in higher contrast to his skin color (black or navy).  It's also be a good idea for him to run a comb through his hair and beard and straighten it out a bit.  These small tweaks could have the audience paying closer attention to him and listening to what he has to say, thus leaving a very positive impression.

It's not about changing who you are and being a chameleon for every situation.  However, imagine how much more influential you could be if you understood how to shift your look slightly to obtain the perception you're after in various situations.  If you're naturally more formal, think about softening your look and wearing lower contrast colors and softer, more touchable fabrics when you have to have a difficult conversation with a direct report.  If you're on the more friendly side, recognize when you need to modify your look to appear more formal and authoritative (e.g. presenting to executives, leading a team meeting) and think about wearing higher contrast colors to your skin tone (maybe even strong or bright colors) and hard finished fabrics.  Recognize if you're slouching or being too relaxed in your posture.  Focus on making good eye contact as much as possible.

I'd love to hear any stories about whether you've recognized any trends in your life that relate to this.   Leave a comment below.  Experiment with this concept and let me know how it goes.  Trust me…this is powerful stuff! I use it in my everyday life and it's working beautifully.