(Barré) #1

that you are a solid professional, and that they are in competent
However, in some industries, the clothes you wear may be
selected to say something completely different. I have a neighbor
who runs an advertising agency; all his clients are in the music
business. He's very successful—a limo picks him up and takes
him to work each day—but I have never seen him wear anything
but well-washed jeans, a shirt with no tie, and a casual sport
jacket. His subtext? "You can trust me because I'm not uptight!"
Even the way we eat influences the message we send, as many
corporations are discovering. As one CEO told me, "I have this
incredibly bright, well-educated guy who really has a grasp of
the business. Well, we had lunch with an important client and
he ate like an animal, shoveling food into his mouth without the
slightest regard for appearance!"
"What do you mean by appearance?" I asked.
"Why, the message he was sending to the client! In effect, he
was saying, I don't know the rules for eating properly. How can
I know the rules for interacting with people?" He shook his head.
"You may not believe it, but now we have sessions with our upcom-
ing executives to teach them the proper way to behave at the
Again, it's a matter of subtext. Not knowing how to handle
oneself properly in the executive dining room or at a business
lunch can contradict the image of competence a professional person
wants to project.
Subtextual messages also differ according to gender. For exam-
ple, women are usually better at expressing warmth through their
facial expressions. In business their smiles and nods can communi-
cate friendliness and openness; their graceful ease with their own
bodies sends a ready subtext of sincerity. Men have different

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