Another Pretty Face?
IT'S APPALLING: I know. It has been clearly revealed by six independent surveys that good-looking people get heard more, are treated with more tolerance, and are often given jobs far in advance of their capability, despite there being better qualified and better able people for the same responsibility. This discrimination actually starts in kindergarten, where the cuter-looking kids get more attention and care than their plainer if more accomplished classmates. Since the `special' treatment starts so early, it isn't in the least surprising that the privileged end up walking taller, feeling more confident and behaving as if the world belonged to them resulting in greater success because of this very behaviour. After all, a confident person is more likely to be trusted with important work than a person who has always struggled for attention. This in itself would not be a terrible thing, were it not for the fact that this tendency is translated into the emoluments that people receive. It really is horrifying that during salary negotiations, better looking candidates often get what they ask for while anatomically challenged people often have to fight oh-so-politely for the same thing often not getting it, despite being much better with a track record to match.
Even so all this would sink into inconsequence were it not for the additional fact that not-so-nice-looking people actually suffer because of this universal mindset. Now the strange part is that this affects men more than it does women because a woman usually gets a better deal vis-à-vis other women than rather villainous looking men do from handsome and imposing men. And mind you, it's men who do the hiring in these cases - not women.
While many jobs depend, to a greater or lesser extent on a person's looks, many people feel that this is not so. However, it is an incontrovertible fact that good looking lawyers in criminal cases get the judgements they want more than 80% of the time. A lawyer who looks like a thug will rarely get a decision that he's looking for. A handsome salesman ends up with better figures in sales than his plain-looking colleague. A good-looking doctor inspires more confidence than a craggy, outdoorsy medicine man.
Aside from looks, other physical attributes seem to make a difference too. A tall, statuesque executive is far more likely to rise in his profession than a short, non-descript toiler. It's truly peculiar, but humanometrics seem to indicate that taller people, worldwide tend to earn 8% more than their shorter colleagues.
The same unfortunate tendency is noticed in business schools where taller, more impressive graduates commanded better starting salaries, and ladies who were plumper and less agile tended to be passed over for jobs related to sales and marketing while remaining in the reckoning for jobs in HR. However, even in such cases, they earned less than their svelte friends.
The problem seems to be an ingrained tendency that is atavistic in nature. Just as the best specimens in animal packs tend to get the best mates, the best bits of the common food, and the best vantage points, it follows that the best looking `specimen' gets the largest piece of the action - and the benefits. Experiments with cradle-confined infants also show that they responded better to people who looked `trust-worthy' than to those same people who either wore scary masks or to those that looked `plain'.
In fact, if on a level playing field, a plain person or an attractive one approached you, the chances are that if they were asking for the same favour, and you could only satisfy one of them, you'd most probably decide to help the more attractive person. The shocking thing is that you'll probably do this even if you were yourself plain or unattractive. The predilection to cater to the more attractive option seems to be so natural that only psychologists seem to take notice of the fact.
The reason is because, no matter how antidotal we might ourselves look, we would still prefer to be in the favoured list of a good-looking person.
So, what do we, who might not be the Alpha Males or Females of the world, do? Plastic surgery or resort to bottles and paints? Well, we can take heart from the fact that some of the worlds' most successful people aren't all of them oil paintings! The richest man in the world, whether you think he is Bill Gates or the Sultan of Brunei, certainly don't, either of them, score high in the looks department. Our own J.R.D.Tata was always a thin gawky person who was mostly skin and bone. However, they compensated for their lack of million-dollar looks, with billion-dollar lifestyles and projection and that's what it's all about.
And, while physical attractiveness might get you hired, it certainly will not guarantee your success in your deliverables. So, what most of us who are less than ramp models do is to hone our capabilities in looking the part and behaving with confidence rather than concentrating on our physical attributes.
In fact, while really attractive people do get hired, perhaps with better salaries, when it comes to getting responsible or critical jobs, looks actually go against them. For one thing, in a sight-unseen-delegate-responsibility situation, good-looking people are somehow passed over because they are thought somehow less serious - another unfair and probably untrue assumption. The secret then is to `appear' to be attractive by gaining and keeping the attention of one's interlocutor.
How? Quite simply by dressing well, though conservatively, taking care to look neat and clean, smelling good, and looking at the person you are talking to in his eyes. You need to stand well, talk well and walk well. Remember a smile can transform the plainest countenance, to the most arresting one. While the scale of natural selection is weighted toward the bold and the beautiful, delivery and excellence is the product of the worker bees and in today's meritocracy, that's what counts!
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