When I was in graduate school I used to do some pretty embarrassing things in an attempt to get good grades. In fact, I would try virtually anything to get an A. One of the silliest things I ever did — which nevertheless worked like a charm in the long run — was to mirror one of my poetry professors, who wore glasses and who had a habit of taking them off whenever he wanted to make an important point.
At the time I wore contact lenses, but I purposely bought a pair of clear lens eyeglasses to make myself look more scholarly for this class. During one long lecture on Robert Frost, Professor S____ removed his eyeglasses and put them back on a number of times, and every time he removed his glasses, I removed mine. Then when he replaced his glasses, I put mine back on too. When he had done this four times, he removed them yet again, and I removed mine too. He looked at me and paused. I held my breath, afraid he was going to burst out yelling and accuse me of mocking him, but instead he seemed to lose his place in the lecture and he appeared flustered. After a moment he slowly replaced his glasses on his nose and I followed suit and put mine back on. My nerves were shaken but, lo and behold, when grades were distributed I found that I had been awarded an A.
I tell you this story to emphasize an important point that can help you when dealing with new clients. The concept is known as mirroring, and psychologists tell us that if you mirror a person’s behavior you will subtly suggest to their unconscious that you are of like mind, and people will be more favorably disposed toward you. This can be especially helpful when building rapport with an associate or an important client.
The good news is that you can also build this rapport by using things other than eyeglasses. You can actually use your necktie for this purpose; in fact, employing the appropriate necktie turns out to be one of the most effective ways to build status and at the same time develop rapport with those you meet on a day-to-day basis.
FIVE TYPES OF TIES
In order to build rapport you should only wear a tie that is compatible with the socioeconomic status of your interlocutor, in other words a tie that is in consonance with his social and educational background. I will now explain exactly how to do this by taking into consideration the subliminal messages that neckties evoke in other people.
We begin by keeping in mind that there are five basic styles of ties: solid, rep, paisley, polka-dot, and repeating shield. The solid is probably the most underused tie, yet one of the most versatile. It works well with people from all walks of life. The rep is a striped tie and is more effective with working-class and middle-class clients. The paisley is a less formal tie and is not as effective for trials, depositions, or any situation in which you need authority and credibility. It works better on days when you don’t have to meet new clients or when you’re not going to court. The polka dot is an effective tie with everyone, especially when you match the color of the dot with your shirt color; it works well with people from all social classes. Small dots work better than larger ones, while huge dots can make you look clownish. The repeating shield is a tie that has a symbol from an Ivy League school and works best with clients who have attended such schools or who are from upper-class backgrounds; it is known to trigger negative reactions from working-class and middle-class men.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON TIES
Let’s be honest: men’s ties are significantly overpriced. You can walk into some of the best clothing stores, including Brooks Brothers and Lord & Taylor, and pay five to six times what a tie is really worth. Today, these outlets regularly charge $50 to $90 for a silk tie.
In 2004 a couple of attorneys got fed up with overpaying for ties. They opened a website, The Tie Bar, that sells 100 percent silk ties for the low price of fifteen dollars plus a small shipping charge. These are the same beautiful styles that you’ll find in Brooks Brothers and Paul Stuart. It may be hard to believe, but yes, you read that right: fifteen dollars for a high-quality, well-designed tie of the same superior workmanship and design that you can buy in the finest stores on Madison Avenue.
With the money you save, you can get yourself a pair of clear-frame eyeglasses and have some fun mirroring people.