First Impressions and Displaying Your Social Status

Like it or not, we all display signs of social status when we go out in public. From our clothing to the car we drive, we give others indications of all kinds of things about us.

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.

Most of us recognize that wealth doesn’t directly correlate in any way to the type of person that’s behind that wealth, but a showing of wealth, in the eyes of many, conveys more positive attributes than negative ones.

That’s why many people strive to dress well in public. They own nice, shiny cars. They possess nice, new cell phones and the like. They have nice jewelry or have a nice watch on their wrist.

They don’t necessarily want to appear “rich,” but they do want others to hold a positive opinion of them, and first impressions make a big difference. Driving a nice car, wearing nice clothes, and having nice jewelry is an easy shortcut to that impression.

The challenge for frugal folks like myself is how to display a positive social status without spending lots of money on clothes, cars, jewelry, and other outward signs of affluence. We want others to see us as approachable and reputable, but we don’t really have a lot of interest in spending money to display wealth. What can we do?

Here are a few tactics that seem to work well for me.

First, keep yourself and your clothes clean and presentable. This should be “life 101,” of course. Take a daily shower. Practice good oral hygiene. Keep your hair brushed. Use deodorant. These are all things you should be doing as a normal life routine.

Second, carry yourself with confidence. This is something that has to be learned, and it’s one of the areas where I agree with the sentiment of “fake it until you make it.” You need to feel like you belong in a room when you go there, that you’re the equal of everyone there and can carry on a conversation with anyone there.

Yes, this is hard for some people. I’m introverted, and I find that I have to prepare myself mentally in order to feel and be confident in a group of people.

Also, confidence and arrogance aren’t the same thing. Arrogance comes from a sense of being better than others in a group. Confidence is merely a sense of being equal to everyone in a group.

Third, participate but don’t dominate. Don’t shy away from participating in discussions or from starting up conversations with people. At the same time, don’t dominate those discussions, either. You should not be the person who has said the most words over the course of a long conversation or, if you are, it shouldn’t be by a very large margin.

I use two tactics for participating in conversations with people. First, if I don’t know what to say, I ask the other person about themselves, listen to what they say, and try to follow up with more questions or with something worthwhile. Second, when I do make a point on a conversational topic, I won’t do it unless I have some specific reasons why I feel that way. Statements without evidence often get you in trouble, particularly when the statements aren’t purely positive in nature.

Fourth, smile. When you pass by people and you see them look at you, smile at them. For me, the easiest way to do this is to picture that person having fun with a little child, because that always brings a smile to my face.

A person that smiles at you, particularly when that smile seems genuine, is always going to get a positive boost in how you perceive them.

Finally, step up to the plate when it’s needed and follow through on what you promise. Not only does this cultivate strong positive feelings among the people you already know, that impression spreads to others. People are more likely to say positive things about you, talk to you in other situations, and so on.

You don’t need much more than this to cultivate a strong positive social status. You don’t need expensive clothes or an expensive car. You just need to be presentable, approachable, confident, and reliable.

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