Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Simple Dollar: First Impressions and Displaying Your Social Status

Bridging-Social-Capital-Mod (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
How do you make sure people respect you when you walk into a room?

Frugality blogger Trent Hamm makes a case in his article from March 2013:

Quite often, people buy into the idea that expensive items display high social status. If they dress well, have a perfect haircut, wear nice makeup and jewelry, and/or drive a nice car, others will perceive them as having a higher social status.

That's certainly true, although I  have to say that even as a kid, I thought it was silly to pay extra for the "privilege" of advertising for a high-end brand. Still, I don't know how many times I've had anxiety over not fitting in, just because I refuse to pay a ton of money for an outfit I'll wear once.

Trent gives some advice for how to have that impressive first moment without spending a ton. I don't entirely agree with all of it, but I'll comment as we go.

His suggestions?

  • Keep yourself and your clothes clean and presentable -- Well, sure, but he people spending to impress aren't likely to be walking around with stained shirts and BO.  My hair at its best won't look like I got a $100 blowout because I didn't.
  • Carry yourself with confidence -- Yes to this one... if you can pull it off.
  • Participate but don’t dominate -- A really tough balance.  Also, you're usually past the first impression at this point.
  • Smile -- I don't disagree with this exactly, but I don't want to support it, either; is policing each other's bodies and emotions really any better than the problem Trent is speaking against?
  • Step up to the plate when it’s needed and follow through on what you promise -- This one will absolutely increase your social capital in the long term, but your first impression will be long since made by the time you get to do so.

I think the problem Trent had here is he's mixing up two issues: the impulse to impress people on the first meeting, and the importance of increasing your social status long-term.  They're both important, and they're not unrelated, but they're going to take different strategies.

How do you impress without spending?

Update 8/19/2015: Minor punctuation and grammar fixes.

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