What Color You Wear Sends a Message


Just about everything you do, consciously or not, during a negotiation sends a message. Not only the words you use, but the tone and volume of your voice, how you sit, whether you make eye contact with the other party, or whether you engage in small talk. You want to do the best for your client, so you need to be aware of all the messages you send during negotiations. The color you wear can also send a message.

Does The Color You Wear Send a Message?

Men wearing red clothes are perceived as angry and aggressive, according to research published by Durham University in England reports Science Daily. In a study fifty males and fifty females saw images of men in different colored t-shirts. Those in red were rated as more aggressive and angry than those in blue or grey. Male viewers also rated those in red shirts as ‘dominant’ while females did not.

Images of men were digitally manipulated in the study so they appeared to be wearing different colors. Volunteers viewed them and rated them for aggression and dominance. They also judged the emotional state of the man in each image. If the man in the image was wearing red, ‘angry’ was a more popular choice over happy, frightened and neutral.

The research results may have parallels in nature (like becoming red faced when you’re angry) and is informative on the impact of color in social situations, according to Rob Barton, Professor in Evolutionary Anthropology at Durham University, who led the study.

Depending on the situation, you may or may not want to be perceived as aggressive or dominant. A job interview or situations where teamwork and trust are needed, red might not be the best choice. Prior research has shown that red worn by sports team members can promote aggression and competitiveness by members and intimidate opponents.

Whether red is a good idea for negotiations (or arguing before a jury) depends on your approach. If you want to be seen as aggressive and dominant and try to intimidate (subconsciously) the other party, red may be your style. A more successful approach, viewing negotiations as an attempt by opposing parties to trust each other and work together towards a common goal (resolution), may be skipping that red tie towards something more neutral.

In another study, men wearing red were more likely to be perceived as angry.


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Steven Mehta
Steve Mehta is a professional full-time mediator who specializes in mediating complex and emotional cases. A leading Los Angeles mediator, Mr. Mehta has been repeatedly selected as a Super Lawyer in mediation and is highly regarded by both sides to mediation. Visit: www.stevemehta.com

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