10 December 2008

Never judge a person by how they look.

A few years back I was presenting a seminar to about 150 people in Alice Springs, a desert city in the middle of Australia. The crowd was very warm and welcoming and whilst I did my thing and spoke about the way to build a dynamic business I noticed one man at the front of the room who could barely contain himself. I assumed he was a little unusual and possibly a bit eccentric simply because he was wearing a tattered pair of shorts, a smelly old singlet and he was barefoot – non of which is considered normal attire even in Alice Springs.

Now I made a number of assumptions about this man simply by looking at him. I assumed that we was a bit strange, that he had no money, that he may even have been mentally challenged in some way. Subconsciously I probably made another 100 assumptions about this man.

We all do it. I have read and spoken to various authorities, stating that we form an opinion of a person in a matter of seconds, sometimes its right and sometimes it is completely wrong.

At the end of the seminar this funny man came over and started to chew my ear off. He was nice enough, but I didn’t really know what he wanted or what he did. We had a pleasant chat, he seemed satisfied and he wandered off, to my relief.

A little later the event organiser came up to me and we were having a debrief on the night. I had a bit of a chuckle as I told her about the strange little man and she told me he was the richest man in Alice Springs. He was worth tens of millions of dollars and he was a self-made property developer.

I have experienced this same thing many times in my life. Looks can be deceiving and when it comes to selling anything, judging people based on their looks can be a sales disaster. I would go one step further and say that often the people we think are the wealthiest, based on what they are wearing or driving, are often just the people with the most debt.

A smart sales person will overcome their initial and instinctual desire to judge a person and put them in a pigeon hole (ie they are rich, they are poor, they are a time waster, they will never buy this). They will look well beyond this and treat everyone exactly the same and that is what will make them different.

I spend a lot of time dressed in suits and travelling. On the weekend or if I am having a day off in a city I like to dress down. I know for a fact that when I walk into most shops, wearing an expensive suit, I get served almost immediately and I am generally lavishly looked after by the sale people. But if I turn up in a pair of jeans and t-shirt the level of service is completely different. Most of the time I am ignored, even though the amount of money in my bank account is exactly the same.

Break the habit of judging a person by their appearance and treat everyone as equal. Do this and you will sell more of anything to anyone. As a beautiful by product, you will get to meet and connect with some truly spectacular people whom you may have previously written off. 


19 thoughts on “Never judge a person by how they look.”

  1. Nicky Jurd says:

    Yesterday I lived a situation almost exactly like this with a new client I met for the first time. He was dressed very similarly to your strange little Alice Springs man and had I not taken the time to treat him the same I would never have found out about his amazing business.

    It’s true how appearances change the way sales assistants treat you. After a week in suits I like nothing better than hanging out in my weekend comfy clothes.

    Andrew do you think that when you’re in a suit maybe you behave a little differently too? If I’m having a downer of a week I tend to pull out my ‘confidence’ clothes as it gives me a psychological boost.

  2. That is a great point Nicky. I still remember when I bought my first suit and wore it to a business meeting. I felt like a million dollars and my confidence was right up there. Today I am going the other way where I feel confident and tend to dress a little more casually because I can. Mind you, I always groom well, iron shirts, have good shoes etc. Sounds corny but the clothes do “maketh” the man. There is a book in this I am sure.

    Thanks for your input, as always!


  3. If someone had a magic formula we could drink to help us stop judging people the world would be amazing! It is such a human, peer, natural thing. There are so many examples in our lives like your experience Andrew but it seems we have to keep learning it over and over again! We do it when we see anyone from teen mums to young lads in hoodies. We dont know their circumstances or maturity levels but we judge. How oh how can we change!?

  4. I agree completely Allison. I think we have to reprogramme ourselves to shock ourselves into reality.

    Cheers and I love your book. In fact I have passed it onto a friend of mine who needs some “boss skills”.



  5. Sangria says:


    Change is inevitable. Evolution never dictates a transition. Patience is the mother of all things.

    I think and strongly believe it is patience that can assist the ones judging others. Patience has helped me cope with several incidents where I was judged for achievements- just never seemed to do anything right. This went on from my teenage years and well into my early 30’s. Then, I went back to Uni and claimed my prized possessions- my achievements, certified and delivered within the frameworks!!!

    It took huge doses of ‘Patience’ to wait 12 years to put a stop to being judged. Now, I find it irritates the very people who were judging me when they find I have patience and embrace change as an inevitable journey in my evolution as a person who has unlimited potential.

    Because when we judge someone, the judgment is a defeat as we experience humility after a reality check. Yet, the judgment we unleash just enhances the one who has been judged. I think judging someone is a challenge, whether you accept the defeat in the form of humility after reality dawns is just another step towards evolving into a better person! And evolution never dictates a transition because we know change is inevitable.


  6. Yes it is a tough one Sangria. I gave up being judged a long time ago. Imagine the grief I get when I tell people I have no formal qualifications – yet I am the biggest seller of small business advice books in Australia? Most people admire that – some can’t cope. Often it is the academics who can’t handle it. I don’t care whether a person has qualifications out the ying yang or nothing but experience, so long as they are good at what they do and they act ethically and honestly. I guess that is judging them, but if they are getting paid to give advice they have to give the right advice or else. OK, my ravings are over. Thanks for your thoughts on this post and others. Merry Christmas.

  7. Thanks – I love your website by the way! Very informative and easy to use.

    All the best – Andrew Griffiths


  8. JaneRadriges says:

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  9. There is some solid information on this blog. I enjoy your writing. I’ve added the feed to my Google Reader RSS subscriptions and will continue reading your work. I did have an issue with how fast this blog entry loaded. Might be something to fix.

  10. paula says:

    never judge a person by race, religion, money, or looks. Base judgement on character, integrity and kindness.

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