Today I was thinking about the things people do, consciously or not, that turn others off, or push others away, or simply destroy the message it would appear they’ve been trying to send. I’m talking about self-sabotage – you know what I mean; when some one tells you a lie but they ever so slightly nod whilst speaking to you, or when someone procrastinates over something for so long, they’re eventually defeated by time, and not an incorrect solution.
Here, I’m talking about body language and body image, and there is no greater example of self-sabotage on this front, than one of my own experiences. It was the nineties – I was still emerging in the communication training industry, and I still had to run Working Voices single-handedly. Back then I was with a different bank to one I’m with now. I had to meet my new bank manager for the first time, and was assured by the guy who handled my account that he was a rising star. He was also the youngest man in a decade to become a manager with this particular branch. No problem there, if he knows what he’s doing.
I remember I was sat waiting for him and he turned up – obviously young, but very smart. He had smart but fashionable shoes, ironed trousers, a fitted jacket, modern haircut, and was fresh and awake, with a friendly but professional smile. But he also had on a Bugs Bunny tie – with Bugs joyfully noshing on a carrot. And with this one article of inoffensive, but out of place clothing, his image was sabotaged.
Now don’t get me wrong, he was a very good manager and very mature, but as I got to know him over the weeks and months after, I realised he did it, and occasionally continued to do it, because some part of him didn’t think he was ready for the role. Somewhere inside of him he must have thought ‘will this really create the best impression of me? No, no it won’t’, but he wore it anyway. I’m not saying you can’t inject a little personality into your clothing, but I am saying there is a line, and he’d obviously crossed it. I got to know him and everything was fine, but even for me (and I consider my mind firmly open), it was a struggle to take him seriously at the beginning.
Self-sabotage stems from somewhere deep inside, and we all do it at times – not bothering to iron your shirt for that job interview you secretly don’t want to do well in and so on, and it’s hard to tell whether the people who are prone to self-sabotage are just prodded into it by their psychologies, or if they’re more conscious of it than that. The most important thing you can do is try to examine yourself objectively, and think whether what you’re wearing, or how you’re behaving, is really appropriate, and if it isn’t, why?