dress for conflict
Would you love a bunch of smart, professionally diverse women aged 25-70 to give you feedback on how your visual and verbal communication aligns with your goals? Because as Micheal Jordan famously said: feedback is the breakfast of champions. Unlike criticism which knocks you down, feedback is an ‘aha’ moment, identifying how to improve a situation. When I moderate "The Secret to Personal Presence' at Raupe & Schmetterling in Berlin, that happens. In order to give useful, customised and focused feedback, I help the participants understand the principles of visual perception. Then, each participant defines a 3-adjective brand vision statement clarifying how they want to be perceived during an upcoming crucial conversation or conflict situation. and we’re ready to go….
Do you want to focus more on your agenda?
When it comes to conflict, there are two factors that influence your communication: how hard you push for your agenda and how much attention you give to relationships. These two factors result in 5 different conflict styles:
COOPERATING, HARMONISING, DIRECTING, AVOIDING, COMPROMISING.
Each style has distinct advantages and disadvantages. But today we'll focus on the overuse of harmonising and learning to increase the use of directing in your conflict management.
DIRECTING: high focus on your agenda, low focus on the relationship. You: control, assert, insist, compete, control, demand, defeat.
HARMONISING: low focus on your agenda, high focus on the relationship. You: agree, go along with, give in, affirm.
No one style is the best response for all situations of conflict, because what is helpful in one situations won’t be in another. Harmonizing is a helpful conflict style when you want to bring kindness and comfort into the relationship. Because you only place medium value on your own agenda, you give in easily to speed up the decision-making process. However, there are times when your agenda, your project, your pay increase are important and you don’t want to give in. Where the only wise response is Directing because your agenda really has to take priority.
A kindergarten teacher was exhausted by parents daily complaining and frustrated by her inability to stop this time-draining behaviour. She often felt bullied.
A corporate manager’s phone conversations with a male client left her feeling frustrated and undervalued because he dominated every call. She was furious when this continued in their face to face meeting and because She was an expert in her field, yet 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 their wardrobe communicate their brand statement. The show of hands is not evaluating the beauty of the women or their clothes but how effectively the participants desired message reaches the audience.
I chose these two women because their outfits were similar: 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. The addition of a jacket, a protective third layer provided the needed visual weight. The result was immediate authority. Both women felt overdressed but received audience feedback they weren't and that adding the jacket tripled their perceived confidence level. The same happened when I changed the white lacy top to plain navy and added navy trousers. The take home? Adding visual weight through a third layer is a protective measure that literally adds confidence.
Are you smart and talented but harmonising too much and struggling to get listened to?
1. BE SEEN, HEARD & VALUED
Confidence is our ability to know that we can successfully deal with life’s challenges. We humans are visual and dressing to be seen, heard and valued, means people see a confident woman before you open our mouth. Don’t dress like the ‘nice girl’ if you today is your big day and you need impact and influence.
2. DRESS FOR CONFIDENCE
Most of of us operate with one dominant conflict style in our repertoire. Strengths that through years of overuse have morphed into a weakness and has now become your comfort zone. Stepping out of your comfort zone and communicating another side of your personality takes time and practise till it feels authentic. Don’t hide your directive personality behind clothing that makes you look like a little grey mouse, even if the others on your team do so. Dress for confidence, visibility and influence even if you need to fake it till you make it! Standing up for your agenda, role models this for others who may be struggling with their directive side!
3. SET BOUNDRIES
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 helps you visualise actually communicating impact and influence. When you open your closet in the morning, set your intention on visually and verbally aligning your message to make your agenda a priority.
Dress to communicate authority during your crucial conversation
Is your default communication style harmonising? Start looking choosing outfits with a "don't mess with with me" third layer suit of armour. Or use colouring deep authoritative shades when fabric is light or soft. Clothing is a communication too to help you leave your comfort zone and awaken your boundary setting directing side!