Perhaps it is the “inner critic” or “self-sabotage committee” which meets in our heads which is responsible for so many of us misrepresenting ourselves with terrible Personal PR, to our detriment, in life.
I have always had a reasonable understanding of the language of clothes and how to “look the part” for a job interview or date but I have certainly been known to misrepresent myself in other ways, laughing in inappropriate places, gabbling too fast through nerves or letting a mild eccentricity out of the bag which isn’t a good idea on first acquaintance, when ruthlessness prevails.
I have also read stories of how individuals subsequently found out they had won a job interview because they were the only one who wore a watch, or bothered to polish their shoes, which denoted they took their personal PR seriously.
The dating world however often takes my breath away, particularly when an otherwise smart and salaried woman chooses to go out for the night dressed like a street walker, only to complain about the quality of man she attracts and bewail: “They only want ONE thing! Why can’t I find a decent man?”
And before anyone shoots me, I am not saying for a second that anyone deserves bad things to happen to them because they dress provocatively, more that when they do so they don’t seem to be thinking about the signals they are sending out and how these might impact on what they want to attract into their lives.
A woman dressed provocatively has no filter and no means of quality control to ensure that she attracts only the attention of the men she finds attractive.
How can that not be self-sabotaging if it doesn’t get her what she wants?
Moreover, with the goods on display, is she looking for a long-term relationship and marriage or just a fling with a conveniently available man?
Like it or not, even a well-educated straight man will be mentally compartmentalising the various women he meets and finds attractive into “one-night stand” or “potential partner” material.
Modern life may change but human nature remains the same in so far as very few one-night stands blossom into long-term relationships.
Market forces dictate, in love as in business, that few people value what is given away, or drastically discounted, and will often reject – or “ghost” – it shortly afterwards.
Tinder, in particular, shows the worst of human commodification and is a terrible platform for anyone to demonstrate good personal PR in the world of intimacy.
Getting drunk also leads to personal misrepresentation, not to mention loss of judgment – and on both sides.
It is with good reason that TV’s The Millionaire Matchmaker imposes a two-drink limit on both genders at each “mixer” event.
Of course the perils of personal PR don’t stop at relationships.
Perhaps influenced by social media, people nowadays are constantly getting into trivial arguments with one another and being childishly spiteful, without thought of the consequences or the bigger picture.
Some of my partners’ old Fleet Street colleagues seem to spend their retirements on Facebook, reminiscing about their glory days working for the Sun, Star or Mail, while attacking the online versions of those papers and any Facebook users who does not agree with their reactionary views.
It is sad to think of these once-proud hacks who reported for readerships of millions damaging their personal PR by venting spleen and spitting blood for a handful of hardly interested readers on social media.
People also indulge in oversharing with near strangers, scaring them off with their baggage and potential dependency issues, not least if they secretly have more than enough of their own worries.
And, often, people relatively behave well to their friends and family but appallingly to strangers, such as waiters, train staff and salespeople – behaviour that ultimately rebounds on them.
To get back to looking the part, no matter what one seeks to achieve in life, perhaps it’s as well to consider oneself an actor playing a role. At least until the formalities are over and you’ve got the gig/job/relationship.
And as long as the part you play isn’t a million miles away from the true you, more a polished version.
Thinking of yourself as an actor in a role also enables you to get a bit of safe distance from the object you most desire and see the matter a little more logically and subjectively.
“Be yourself” can often be the worst advice – particularly if you are not entirely sure who that is and what you really want.
Most people want to be liked, accepted and approved of. But at the most basic level, winning respect is a worthy starting point in personal PR. It is something that is worth training for.
* This article is the view of the author who is a Brighton-based trainer who offers personal PR training and media training in Sussex and London.