Diane Levin posts a provoking piece about the effect of appearance in negotiation. She was inspired by an article in an online magazine that urges women to present themselves in a way that will look good to the other party. Levin argues that a professional appearance and listening to your counterpart are much more important for a successful negotiation. Moreover, she is left uneasy by the emphasis on a woman’s appearance. "Behind it lurks a whole array of social justice issues uncomfortable to discuss but urgent for us to face." (Mediate.com.)
I agree with Levin's emphasis on listening over appearance and concern about social justice issues facing women in negotiation. As an Ombuds, I am personally concerned about the impact of a first appearance. Like most Ombuds since I work with visitors who vary widely in age, education, income, ethnicity, gender identity, etc. It would be impossible and disingenuous for me to attempt to mimic the attributes of the individuals with whom I interact. I find it more important to dress in a way that reflects that I am comfortable with myself, neutral in my outlook and serious about my work. My only “accessory” is a trustworthy pen. That being said, I do keep a jacket and tie handy for mediations, presentations and meetings with top administrators. I would interested in hearing readers' thoughts on these issues.
Related post: Gender Differences in Negotiating.