There’s a Kroger grocery store I go to all the time that’s about five miles from my house. The store itself isn’t located in a great area. In fact, it’s in an area that most might consider sketchy. For those who have listened to my podcast Super Duty Tough Work, this is the same Kroger that I mentioned has prostitutes near it and where I almost had to pull a knife on a guy for messing with me.
At any rate, I go to this store all the time. Aside from a mild argument between hood-rats and panhandlers, I have never had any real problems there. No fights, not much (if any) police presence there. The people haven’t necessarily been mean to me, but they’ve also never been nice. If I had to describe the people working there and the customers it would as indifferent; they really don’t speak to each other and don’t care about interacting one way or another. It’s just a grocery story in the hood where people buy their groceries and keep it moving.
Well, earlier this week I attended a funeral and decided to stop at this grocery store to pick up a few things on my way home. I was still dressed formally: wearing a suit, tie, jacket, and black trench coat. Obviously I was kind of down emotionally after leaving the funeral and wasn’t in much of a mood to be social or speak to anybody.
As I was walking up to the entrance, there was another person walking up at the same time. They smiled, paused, and let me enter first. In the produce section, another person smiled and asked me how my day was. Several times as I was walking down isles looking for items, people would smile and say, “after you sir,” letting me go first. Even people who worked there would ask me if I needed help with anything and were super friendly towards me. When I checked out, the customer behind me and the cashier were more friendly to me than I have ever remembered them being. The wildest part is that I was in such an awful mood that I was trying my hardest to not even look at people. Yet everywhere I went, the customers and employees were extremely polite to me.
Because I go to this store all the time, and people have never been this friendly before, I started to wonder what was behind it.
Could they tell that I was sad inside?
I doubt it. Plus people usually avoid people they think don’t want to be social.
Did the employees have bosses or managers who told them they needed to be more friendly and I was just experiencing the results of that decision? Probably not, since I’ve been to that store hundreds of times and the customers were doing the same thing.
After I thought about it, I realized that people were responding differently to me because of the way I was dressed. No matter how emotionally down I was, I walked in that grocery store looking like a million bucks. I had on a suit, tie, matching hat and sweater, and black trench coat. I have never seen so many smiles or heard the word “sir” as many times as I heard it during the ten minutes I was there. People didn’t have any idea what was going on inside me, but because everything about my outer appearance exuded confidence and class they treated me with the utmost respect. In fact, it was almost like they were happy to see me.
The whole thing made me think about how often we discount the importance of our appearance. Character is important, but our physical appearance is the first thing people see and consequently the first thing they make their judgement on before they meet us. If we look as though we don’t care about our appearance or respect ourselves enough to try, it should come as no surprise that others don’t take us seriously.
If you walked into your doctors office and it smelled awful, the nurses were as dirty as mechanics, and the doctor looked exhausted and dirty as if he had been sleeping in his car for months, would you trust them?
If you hired a physical trainer to help you lose weight, but they showed up looking out-of-shape and with a beer belly, would you respect them enough to hire them?
If you were a landlord and somehow found out that a prospective tenant lived in a place that they never clean up and treat badly, would you be exited about renting your property to them?
Many of us have no problem answering no to all of those questions when they concern other situations and people, yet we never question how our own appearance and conduct influences what other people think about us. Whether we like it or not, appearance matters. How seriously we take ourself influences how seriously others take us. Once again, I was just reminded of this lesson; people take you as seriously as you take yourself. To be treated with respect and honor, present yourself with respect and honor.
Those employees and customers didn’t know what I had going on inside and they had no idea what kind of work I did for a living. All they knew was that I respected myself enough to dress with class and carry myself with respect. And for that, they gave me their respect.
Never underestimate the importance of appearance.
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