I attended a small business forum this week and sat in on talks about social networking, growing a sustainable business, and cash flow. Event seminars were broken into rooms – a cash room, growth strategies, sales and marketing, and a social media space.
The first social media seminar of the day was packed but I managed to find a seat fairly near to the front that happened to be between two men. It wasn’t long after sitting down that I regretted choosing that empty chair. (Today I wonder why that particular seat was empty, seeing as though the room was full.)
The fellow to my right was nicely dressed in a grey suit and a red and white striped dress shirt with a red tie. His choice in wardrobe made him look nice and it made him look competent. This made me think that he was probably a nice person.
The man on my left took up more space and looked somewhat unkempt. He dressed casually and wore a thick leather coat and commented on my notebook. Friendly.
Once I got settled, I began to notice my surroundings and was absolutely overcome by a syrupy sweet cologne that was sickening to me. (If you read the Scent post from September, you’ll recall that I have rather a sensitive nose.) I nonchalantly turned my head to see what side it was coming from.
Both Lefty and Stripes wore cologne. A lot of cologne. More cologne than would ever be necessary. Lefty smelled of Angel Men, the thickest, strongest, and sweetest men’s fragrance I have ever encountered. My nostrils may have been in shock, but Stripes smelled to have the same smell about him, and the scarf I wore was literally pulled over my nose. This took my concentration away from the seminar.
It would have been alright if Lefty had sat still during the presentation, but instead of taking notes, Lefty photographed everything. Every time he moved his right arm to take a picture, the movement released another wave of cologne. Not only this, but his elbow came to my eye level which to me was a looming threat and this made me feel uncomfortable.
Further to my distraction was the space issue. Now, I’m a small person and I don’t take up much room, but if you’re beside me, this is no reason to open your knees 2.5′ apart. (I made a point of eyeballing the distance between Stripe’s legs as I sat there.) Lefty rested at a 2′ expanse which left me with a scant 1′ legroom. In his large coat, Lefty took up even more space around him, and cheeked his way over to the edge of my chair, reducing my cramped space further.
Unfortunately for me and the young presenter, I missed most of his presentation because I was sandwiched between these two heavily-scented men with their knees wedged into mine, moving my focus from this probably fascinating talk to the stink in my nose and the threat of being whacked upside the head.
* * *
A large part of exercising a good image is to behave well and treat other people with respect. It is also about being conscious of yourself. The fellas I sat between seemed completely oblivious to themselves and to everyone else. In the end, I had to leave the seminar because I couldn’t take the cologne any longer and I was just too uncomfortable.
What exactly did this unconsciously-driven behaviour of the men who flanked me do for them? Their choices or lack of mindfulness completely foiled any attempt to make a good impression. Bad behaviour is good at ruining your well-dressed image and your friendly demeanor.
Moral of today’s story: Be aware of yourself – acting without thinking can destroy an impeccable image.