Certainly a majority of us would agree that a pleasing personality is a valuable asset in most person-to-person communications. We’d agree, too, that it would be especially important in the selling of custom window coverings and interior furnishings.
We might not agree, though, on exactly what we mean by personality.
Webster’s defines the word as “the quality or fact of
being a particular person, identity, individual; like, or having
the nature of a person or rational, self-conscious being.”
Duh? Sounds impressive, but rather vague and fuzzy.
No wonder talk show hosts, authors, speakers and professors spend
so much time trying to pinpoint a person’s personality. That’s
the funny thing about personality traits: you can’t find an
exact definition for each person, each day.
MANY MOODS INVOLVED
We use ambiguous synonyms like warm, cheerful and pleasant. In business
talk, reporters prefer adjectives like dynamic, persuasive, powerful
and impressive. Undesirable traits, like rude, nasty, surly and
disagreeable, do not describe a favorable selling image. One’s
personality can quickly change from nice to ugly, plain to sexy,
pleasant to nasty.
So, how do you judge a person’s effective, long-range personality
as related to career abilities and needs? That’s the tough
question, so important to communication in everyday situations.
My own non-professional opinions for predicting personality types
are vague and fuzzy, too. I suggest that a person’s personal
image is determined by variations of the following: appearance,
inherent traits, communication skills and motivation.
1. Appearance (Looks, Style, Bearing)
Again, most of us would agree that appearance can be a definite
factor in judging one’s personality. Probably, our culture
puts too much emphasis on looks.
We may quote the old clichés, “Looks ain’t everything,”
and “Beauty is only skin deep.” We note examples of how
a person’s charming and friendly manner can compensate for
a lack of what we consider as good looks. Just look around at various
successful individuals from all walks of life. Obviously, we of
limited looks see reasons for hope. But, do we really believe what
FIRST IMPRESSION LAST
If exterior appearance isn’t a substantial plus in measuring
personality, why are so many women and men anxious to alter theirs?
Why are they willing to endure potentially serious surgery, difficult
diets and considerable expense? Because they want to be better looking,
make a more acceptable first impression and have a sexier body.
A little “lipo” here, a “lift” there, a “plastic
job” where needed, plus a final “extreme makeover,”
and—behold!—a new you, or more accurately, a remodeled
you. With the potential to have an improved career, new friendships
and an edge in our beauty/sex culture. My point is:
Appearance is an important personality factor—not just looks,
but also proper dress (style) and bearing can be an advantage in
our pursuit of success and friendships.
We can alter our image to some degree, which, in turn, might help
us achieve the goal noted above. All of which relates to our business.
2. Inherited Characteristics
Assuming that we can, if necessary, redo to some extent our outer
appearance, can we also alter those unique features, quirks and
mannerisms our parents gave us at birth? Not now, maybe in some
We read that scientists are able to locate “recessive genes”
in our DNA (whatever they are). Eventually, they say it will be
possible to remove them and replace them with good genes. That would
be nice. Body parts could be substituted, or we might all be cloned
to look alike. Then, we could all have the same personality and
life would be very boring. And, what would talk show hosts have
to talk about?
In the meantime, “We have to play with what we brought,”
as Yogi once said. However, if our looks are lacking and our genes
are recessive, we can work on improving our communication skills,
which in turn can help us improve our personalities. Guaranteed.
3. Communication Skills
No need to dwell again on the basics of interpersonal communications.
I discussed those at some length in my last two articles (see D&WC,
February 2004, page 44 and D&WC, November 2003, page 80.) As
I reported, I haunted the self-help sections in bookstores and libraries;
attended seminars, in person and on videos, all telling me how to
become inspired: I even watched Oprah, her “shrink,” Dr.
Phil, and other highly paid advisors. Each of the many experts and
celebrities in the “personality improvement” business
claimed to have the winning formula. Each listed rules for personal
To me, they all seemed to be elaborate variations of the other simplified
basics. For example, one book explored all the kinds and usages
I finally concluded that self-help pioneer, Dale Carnegie, had the
right idea over 70 years ago. Current experts, like Zig Ziglar,
expanded the concept into varied marketing areas. Others evolved
into two other major categories: 1) Finance with the “get rich”
books; and 2) Medical advice with the “get well” books.
OLD BASICS BEST
In brief, it seems so simple. Our best—and maybe only—way
to improve our personalities starts within us in our mental outlook.
No. 1 above (the appearance makeover) may be able to help a small
percentage of affluent persons. It’s probably not practical
for an average person. No. 2 (inherent traits change) is but a dream
for now. That leaves the basic concepts noted by Carnegie. Boiled
down, they are:
• Really listen to others
• Ask questions
• Avoid arguments
• Consider the other person’s viewpoint
• Make the other person feel important
• Remember to ask for the sale
It’s so easy. Just utilize the basics, create a responsive,
interesting, pleasant personality and be rewarded with new friends
and better careers. That’s it, and there’s much evidence
that it can work.
Not so fast, however. The problem is still ourselves. We watch and
read, become emotional about the changes wrought in other person’s
behaviors. For most of us, that’s it. We become bored, yawn
and go on with our lives in the same old manner. We lack that necessary
urgency to act. We lack:
The final criterion for a better personality is plain follow-through
efforts. To practice and actually make use of the skills needed
to communicate efficiently. Why go to the trouble of redoing our
appearance or our bad genes if we end up repeating the same old
habits, manners and stubbornness? Enthusiastic motivation is the
EFFORT WORTH WHILE
Can we be helped? The answer can be a qualified yes. Notice I said
“can be.” It depends on your motivation. The experts insist
that we can achieve satisfactory results by working with the concepts.
I could use hundreds of success stories from books I’ve read
or shows I’ve watched. Forget Nos. 1 and 2. Concentrate on
No. 3. Practice your skills and smile!
In my next article, I’ll conclude my tenuous excursion into
the uncertain area of personal traits and communication. I’ll
use quotes, stories and comments from some celebrities in our own
field of window coverings and home fashions. They have definite
beliefs about the values of personality in selling, design and workroom
John J. Lichty is a consultant and senior editor for Draperies
& Window Coverings magazine. He has more than 30 years experience
in the planning and administration of various consumer, trade and
retail advertising programs.
Past articles dating back to 1996 can be found on D&WC’s
online archive categorized by author and subject: www.dwcdesignet.com/DWC/ArticleIndex.html.