We live in interesting times where the traditions of the past are more quickly becoming the traditions of the past. Things change so fast but some things don’t.

Each of us has certain conceptions of what is appropriate in a given situation. Most of us would not show up to an interview in shorts and a t-shirt but do you need to where a three-piece suit and tie.  When crafting an email to an executive the message should generally focus on being clear and concise but does that mean you need to include a formal salutation and sign-off?

I still see many different perspectives on formalism and I think the answer is relatively simple:

1. Understand the situation: This is pretty common sense but think about your situation. Are you in a job interview? Are you talking to college students on a college campus?  Do you know the reputation of the person you are meeting with? What is the reputation of the person you are communicating with? What are other people doing in a similar situation? The more important the conversation, meeting or presentation is the more you should really seek out an understanding of the situation.

2. Adapt:  You want to relate to your audience and be context appropriate no matter if it is a sales call, job interview, formal presentation, or fundraising. So once you understand the situation then adapt. You might not like to wear a suit and you might think it is not your image but do you want the job or do you want the audience to respect you. On the other hand you might have your input discounted if you seem too formal and your audience does not relate.

3. When in doubt, be a traditionalist: I am always a believer that when in doubt edge on the side of formalism. Whether it is dress or communication style, being formal if in doubt usually will not penalize you. However, not being formal enough will still often penalize you.

BTW — my preference is to be less formal if you are seeking me out and looking to understand my preference.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

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