Levels of Intimacy in Communication LO18738

Fri, 24 Jul 1998 15:58:39 -0400

Replying to LO18704 --

Roxanne wrote about the "physical masks most of us hide behind." I'm not
sure they are always "hiding" masks - they can also be revealing masks.
Our clothes convey information; they are part of the communication
process. We all give out mixed signals, act and speak differently, even
move differently in different situations. They all reveal aspects of who
we "really are;" it gets confusing until you realize that we "really are"
defined in many ways by the interactions we have with others. Some act
more consistently among groups, but that doesn't mean that people who are
more chameleon-like aren't just that, defined partially by the context of
the moment.

As I have become more conscious of who I am and how I interact with
different groups, I have become more effective at communicating in many
ways, including clothing. Generally, I do the jeans, sneakers, t-shirt
routine, as much because it's easy as anything else. I represent the US
Dept. of Labor in a fairly conservative state, and work with everyone from
cabinet secretaries and governor's councils, to state administrators, to
local front-line staff. On my first trip to the state, I intentionally
wore a dark shirt, lively tie, nice slacks, no sportcoat, and a small
earring, all to communicate that "this isn't your normal fed." When I
visit youth programs I wear shorts, a t-shirt, a more noticable earring,
and a small bead necklace. It communicates a lot to the kids, and one
group even pulled me aside as said "we don't want to talk about this in
front of the grown-ups." The clothing communicated that I am approachable
and "safe." When I attend state council meetings, I dress fairly
conservatively, to communicate to the council members that "this kid is a
professional" and to others (who see me in my other "costumes") that
"this kid knows how to act in high-level situations." These aren't masks
I hide behind; they are theatrical costumes which help me say something.
Even my everyday casual garb says that I am an everyday casual guy.

Barak Rosenbloom
US Department of Labor, Seattle



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