dress for conflict

 Tamu McPherson and Anna Wintour covered up and protected....ready to deal successfully with life's challenges

Tamu McPherson and Anna Wintour covered up and protected....ready to deal successfully with life's challenges

Twice a year in at Raupe & Schmetterling in Berlin I give an open women's workshop on "The Secret to a Powerful Personal Presentation'. The audience usually covers three generations, a multitude of disciplines and cultural heritages. All that diversity in the room is a wonderful advantage, as common challenges become quickly apparent. First, I present the theory of visual perception and then facilitate live coaching for 3-5 participants. Each participant presents a challenge they are currently facing, and that alone they have been unable to successfully overcome.

My part is helping the participants become aware of how they can bring their creativity and inner strengths to life through wardrobe. So their visual and verbal communication is aligned and impactful.

The two factors that influence your communication: how hard you push for your agenda and how much attention you give to relationships. These two factors combined result in 5 different conflict styles. Today I'll focus on the overuse of harmonising and learning to use directing in conflict management. 

DIRECTING: high focus on your agenda, low focus on the relationship. You: control, asset, insist, end, compete.

HARMONISING: low focus on your agenda, high focus on the relationship. You: agree, go along with , give in, affirm.

Clearly, no one style is the best response for all situations of conflict.  Each style is helpful for certain situations when other styles wouldn't be very useful.   The Harmonizing response brings brings kindness and comfort into the relationships because you only place medium value on your agenda. And because you give in more easily you speed up the decision-making process. However, there are times when the only wise response is Directing because your agenda takes priority.

Case studies from the workshop:

A kindergarten teacher came forward and shared how exhausted she was by parents daily complaining and how she was unable to stop this behaviour which took up a tremendous amount of time. She often felt bullied into these conversation. 

A manager is a large company had had phone conversations with a male client who had dominated the conversation. She was angry because this had continued in their face to face meeting and she was feeling demoralised because although she was an expert in her field she had been talked down to and her opinions not valued.

The women explained how they wish to be perceived and through a show of hands the group demonstrated if the message was visible and clear. The show of hands is not evaluating the beauty of the women or the clothes but how effectively the participants desired impression is understood by the the group. 


The reason I chose these two women as case studies is that they were wearing similar outfits: light coloured, lacy tops and light weight trousers. Both desired to be perceived as clear, confident experts. When no hands were raised clearly none of the three adjectives were perceived by the audience. So  I made a simple change to both outfits and added a jacket, a protective third layer.  The result...immediately more authority. Both said they felt overdressed but received feedback from the group that they weren't at all. But that by simply adding the jacket their confidence level had tripled.  The same happened when I changed the white lacy top to a plain navy and added navy trousers. What can we learn from this?

1. confidence:

Confidence is our ability to know that we can successfully deal with life challenges. And especially because we humans are so visual, it is crucial to look in the mirror and know that the woman you see is empowered to stand eye to eye with anyone.  

2. self-awareness

Most of of us go through our lifetime operating with one conflict style in our repertoire. One that has strengths....yes, but through years of over-use has also morphed into a weakness. We may have learnt it in childhood or our teens and have now spent years staying in the comfort zone of that style. Stepping out of your comfort zone and communicating another side of your personality takes time and practise till it feels authentic. But once we have the self-awareness that a part of us has been submerged it our responsibility to make sure it emerges. Hence we may need to fake it till we make it! 

3. vision & focus

We know that Olympic athletes have coaches who help them visualize winning. Studies have show that visualising your success is the most important factor in actually achieving it.  Dressing intentionally to set boundaries is a first step to communicating it clearly. Your mind focuses on boundary setting and becomes aware that the harmonising factor needs to defer to directing, so you can be listened to and valued. 

Clothes are a communication tool that empower you to set clear boundaries and express your expertise...on your terms.

Remember that when you are browsing Pinterest. If you have a conflict situation and your default communication style has been harmonising lstart to look at outfits from a directing perspective. Ones where you see a "don't mess with with me" third layer suit of armour. Train your ability to use directing in conflict situations. Allow your outfit to remind you to leave your comfort zone and express the tension of the other side of your personality. Awaken your boundary setting directing side!  Open the door to full expression of your potential! 

 Linda V Wright and Ana Gimena Brugade confidently stepping out in their third layers.

Linda V Wright and Ana Gimena Brugade confidently stepping out in their third layers.

Lisa Pippus2 Comments