Mirror, Mirror: Appearance Matters More Than Talent

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I’ll start by discussing people, self-appearance, and how it affects our lives.

A major study in 2013 revealed that when rating a musicians performance visual information reigns supreme over the music itself. When attending a concert presenting classical music humans rate the performance not by what they HEAR, but by what they SEE. This was found to be true for both novices and professional musicians. Even the experts unknowingly judge music by sight instead of sound. Incredible.

If we unknowingly rate musical performance through appearance, then it is a safe bet that appearance affects the way we evaluate EVERYTHING.

The mind is constantly on the lookout for identifying and assimilating patterns. Everyone unconsciously evaluates how I dress, my hair style, my vehicle, how I walk, if I mirror another’s body language, and an array of other non-verbal cues.

All this non-verbal information becomes the foundation of others perceptions of us. Our verbal communication and behaviors have impact, but only as a scaffolding built upon the foundation of appearance. This is because our words and actions are evaluated in the context of our non-verbal cues.

Put more bluntly, our non-verbal cues anchor peoples perceptions of us. Our words and actions allow those perceptions to shift, but only a certain distance from the anchor point.

This does not just concern initial impressions, but is a lasting effect that very slowly loosens over time. Once a perception is anchored all incoming information is judged relative to that anchor. Two people can behave identically, but be judged radically differently because judgments are always made relative to the anchor point.

If Mother Teresa volunteers at a soup kitchen she would be perceived as a caring individual due to her anchor point. If a person you don’t like does this the mind will quickly conclude it is for self-serving reasons.

This is why when making a radical life change it is useful to change jobs, locations, or friends. The people we regularly interact with have a set anchor of who we are, and the way they act reinforces that perception. People treat us according to how they see us, and the way we perceive ourselves is strongly affected by how others behave toward us.

I hold in my head the notion that any person, on any given day, can choose to change themselves. I am not the same person I was 5 years ago; no one is. This allows my to loosen my instinctual desire to evaluate someone today based on who I decided they were 1 year ago.

Even more profoundly, if you reinforce through language the idea that a specific person is noble and moral, they will begin seeing it in themselves and reflecting that. This psychological effect is called “priming”, and it is a significant driver of our daily actions and perceptions. If you continuously communicate to someone how that they’re not to be trusted they will in time begin reflecting that idea.

We frame other peoples realities every day, and most of the time we do it unconsciously by acting in a way that validates how we perceive them. Take control of your mind and your perceptions of others. Speak the good you see in them, and they’ll begin acting in accord with that evaluation.

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