This section is from the book "Applications of Psychology to the Problems of Personal and Business Efficiency", by Warren Hilton. Also available from Amazon: Psychology and Achievement - Applied Psychology 12 Volume Set.
CLOTHES do not make the man. But they make all that is seen of him, except his hands and face, during business hours.
A man's clothes must be clean and must be appropriate to the kind of work in which he is engaged.
First impressions are of immense importance.
If you look prosperous, and the man you are dealing with is attracted by your appearance, you have gained a great advantage.
The well-groomed, well-appearing man who looks self-respect and prosperity is seldom denied an interview.
It is a fact of common observation and experience that men like to talk to persons who look healthy, active and well-dressed. Dress for comfort is an evolutionary development from dress for adornment.
The instinct for display is primarily sexual, but attractive articles of dress as worn by men have been in all ages and in all stages of civilization the rewards of individual skill and prowess. This is as true of the well-dressed business man today as it was of the savage with the scalp-lock at his belt.
Ornament with men means that the wearer is a formidable person. It is a sign of wealth, success, ability and power, and a potent means of obtaining a high rating with others.
Dress shabbily, and the world will assume that you are pigeon-livered and lack courage and have never achieved anything.
The world will take you at your own valuation. Who, then, keeps a precious jewel in a rag-bag?
Dress quietly. Wear clothing of fine quality but plain color. Remember Beau Brummel's axiom, "To be well dressed, you must not be noticed."
In very truth, this axiom contains the whole psychology of dress as applied to success in your relations with others, since if you are noticeably shabby or noticeably overdressed the effect is to distract attention from yourself and what you have to say and unfavorably direct it toward your clothes.
With shabby clothing it is difficult to command favorable attention; with loud clothing it is hard to inspire confidence.
The psychic importance of being well and appropriately dressed is twofold : first, for the impression you create in the minds of others; second, for the reactionary effect upon yourself.
No man can do his most effective work in his dealings with others unless he is dressed as he thinks he ought to be dressed. In your own office, or in another man's office, this mental satisfaction and its reaction upon your own work is worth looking after.
To attain to perfection in dress you must analyze your needs for correctness. You must cultivate an unobtrusive originality. You must adapt your apparel to the occasion, to the time of day, to the surroundings and to the people with whom you come in contact. You must make an outward sign of your business activity, your enterprise and your good breeding.
Thereby you will avoid unfavorable comment and will obtain the respect of others, an increased self-confidence, a more magnetic personal atmosphere and a greater all-round efficiency.
A good address includes courtesy, tact and self-restraint.
Tact is a quality which serves its possessor well at all times and under all circumstances. All persons regard it as a thing greatly to be desired, but many fail to recognize that it may be consciously cultivated.
Tact when analyzed is found to be made up of certain elements.
It means the ability to put one's self in the place of another and see the matter with his eyes. It means the ability and willingness to yield for the sake of expediency. It means the forbearance to patiently await the opportune time for vindication. It means the kind-heartedness to refrain from voicing such sentiments as would needlessly offend. It means the gracious acceptance of unavoidable situations. It means gentleness, magnanimity, cheerfulness and a sympathetic knowledge of the fears, weaknesses, expectations and inclinations of human nature.
Courtesy consists in part of good manners. Good manners are the reflections and the shadows of the inner virtues.
A courteous address will at once place you on the high road to favor and success.
"Give me but one hour," said Wilkes, the politician and journalist, whose ugliness was as remarkable as his charming manners and address, "and I shall not be one inch behind the handsomest man in all England."
A courteous address opens doors that are closed to good looks, wealth and fame. And it will keep them open.
It is the first step that counts. The man who knows how to take it enters everywhere upon a firm footing, while the boorish and hesitating blunderer is lost.
Courtesy is a positive quality. It is more than a mere lack of discourtesy. It is the outward evidence of an inward sense of justice and a respect for the rights of others.
In all history little things have been the hinges on which careers have turned. A merchant is impressed by the unfailing "Thank you!" of a newsboy and employs him, and the lad becomes a master of finance. A smile of recognition wins a friend, and so admits one to a wide circle of men and women who contribute to his social and material advancement. Acts of courtesy and thoughtfulness are the seeds of opportunity, and any day may find the harvest ready to be reaped.
The contrary is equally true. A valuable business connection was lost because a man so far forgot himself as to criticise the entertainment afforded by his host. One can never tell what alluring prospects may be erased from the landscape of one's future by a lack of regard for the little courtesies of life.
We sail a dangerous sea. One variation from compass or chart may end in disaster. Only by the most careful seamanship can we hope to reach the haven of success. But if every turn of the helm represents our best effort, any day, any hour, may bring the glad cry of "Land ahead!"