Are you beautiful? Does it matter?

In an environment of rampant political correctness, the correct answer would be “Yes.  We are all beautiful in our own way.”  But that’s obviously not true, at least physically.  There is an infinite spectrum of physical appeal, ranging from not at all to Salma Hayek.  There is the ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ argument and then there’s the fact of universal beauty (i.e. Salma Hayek).

But does that really matter when it comes to presenting, selling or getting employment?

Yes.  Overwhelmingly so.

In a study by Simon Fraser University and 20/20skills.com, the conclusion was simple and direct.

The perception is: Beauty = good-better, smart-successful and important-valuable.

In all instances, random people preferred to talk to, work with and be around people who are more attractive.  The court system preferred attractive people to unattractive people, handing out comparatively lenient sentences to the beautiful.  Even our brains are hard-wired to respond to beauty; lighting up in the same brain regions as the brains of cocaine addicts do when they’re high.

Pictured: Not Guilty.

But there is a flip side to beauty.  If you’re too hot, you get discriminated against.  Suddenly, instead of eliciting warm and fuzzy feelings, you’re seen as egocentric, dishonest and ‘too smooth’.  Members of your own sex will resent you.  Beautiful women have a tougher time when interviewed by other women for employment.  Less so for men.

So where does this leave most of us who are somewhere between the extremes when it comes to selling, presenting or finding jobs?  

In a very good spot.  The universal rule “Like likes like” applies.  If most of us are of average attractiveness, then we actually have more in common with our customers and employers than a super-model would.  And the most important factor in presenting is having commonality with your audience.  This is why master presenters, like politicians, all play the “I came from humble beginnings” card.  Most people are still in humble circumstances.  This is why politicians like Palin became dangerously relevant.

But let’s be honest here.  You’re clearly better looking than the next person. So how do you ensure that amongst the average, you’re perceived as above average, that you should get the job or sale and not the other guy.

Be in shape.  Look healthy.  We’re animals.  We’re genetically programmed to identify positively with those who look healthy and may make good mates to spawn offspring with.  Looking healthy and youthful equates to good genes.   When you’re presenting, selling or interviewing, you’ll give the impression that you will be able to deliver on your promises by not dropping dead of a heart attack after the contract is signed.

Learn to organize your thoughts before you speak.  The moment you open your mouth on stage, in a pitch or in a job interview, the listener immediately places you in her universe of concerns.  The thoughts, vibes and words you send out should clearly indicate that you are here to ‘Complement, not Compete.  Support, not Supplant.’

Don’t be an android.  The ultimate communication tool is a confident smile and eye contact.  Most people you walk past today will either actively avoid eye contact or pretend they don’t see you much less offer up a smile.  Most people feel weird smiling to a stranger.  They feel weird because it’s so rare.  So smile at everybody. Why be average when you can be rare?  Once this becomes second nature and completely automatic for you, how much more will you stand out against other interviewees who only save their smiles for special occasions?

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