Would people follow you across the street, illegally?

Career Success

In the article, Project an Image of Success in 2018, we highlighted the power of clothes and how nice clothes can help you to project an image of success and authority. Let’s peel back another layer and look at the science behind this effect.

In the book Influence –Science & Practice, Robert Cialdini cites a social experiment where scientists had a gentleman cross the street illegally in two different attires: a straightforward suit and a casual outfit. Surprisingly, 350% more people were willing to follow the man in the suit crossing the street against a red light (and, incidentally, against the law).

Note that in this study, and others like it, a person’s clothing influenced behavior due to one consistent factor: no other information was known about the person. People were forced to make an assessment, and judgment of the person, solely from their attire. When the man wore ordinary, casual clothes, people were less inclined to follow him, but when he wore a standard suit, his status instantly increased and people were instinctively more apt to follow his lead.

The immediate implications are clear. When meeting someone for the first time, it is important to dress at a level that matches the expertise and authority that you want to project. But as noted in the other article, with the advent of different dress codes, from business formal to dress down casual and a myriad of others in between; perhaps it would be more effective (and less expensive) to draw on another powerful driver – the words you use to express yourself.

How are you communicating with important people? Are you using “suit words” — powerful, expressive words that convey intelligence, expertise, experience and authority?
… or …
Are you using “Casual Friday words” – mediocre, ordinary, and uninspired words that make you seem average?

If you want to be a leader who people respect and follow (and even follow you across the street illegally), you need to speak with a “suit vocabulary” — the vocabulary of a high-level executive.

Written by Greg Ragland, President, CEO of CommEdge LLC producers of Vocabulary Zone and the corresponding Vocabulary Certifications: College Preparedness, Ph.D. Vocabulary and Executive Level Vocabulary

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