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I first learned of the mimic/mirror theory when a client remarked to me that it made him uncomfortable that I dressed so nicely. Huh? I thought that was how I was supposed to dress. Aren’t I supposed to look professional? As a software engineer at a pre-IPO, he worked outrageous hours and was so proud to tell me, “I haven’t even had time to brush my teeth today.” His style of dress was strictly for the comfort of sitting in a chair at a monitor and keyboard for endless hours each day. His appearance could have caused this multi-millionaire to be mistaken for a homeless vagrant. Nothing he wore, drove or owned revealed that he was one of the wealthiest individuals in town – and one of the most humble and appreciative.

It was an easy adjustment. I love jeans and tennis shoes; he gave me an excuse to wear them. But my colleagues were confused. “Who’s that guy and why are you coming into the office dressed like that? Are you sure he can afford a house?” I was face-to-face with the new generation of home buyer.

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I took this new awareness and melded it into my business practice. One of the first things I try to evaluate about a new client is their style; their style of dress, their style of speaking, their mannerisms. I understand the importance of being professional. I also understand that it can be perceived by some as a desire to appear to be superior. It visibly makes people more comfortable when they meet another who is like them. That’s how we become friends. We are similar in a variety of ways that connect us. Hobbies connect us. The type of car we drive connects us. Our similar professions connect us. Our mutual acquaintances and friendships connect us.

An effective way to build rapport is to mirror, in a most respectful way, of course. It’s been suggested in materials I’ve read that in order to really take this to a higher level, you should mimic a particular accent. In my opinion, that tactic is a bit much. However, if you gradually move into their stance or pause for a moment and then sit back in your chair as they do, you will relate in new ways.

We are animals – at the top of the food chain – but still animals. We are ruled by our senses. Much is communicated without a word being said. I’m sure at some point you’ve been told, “Don’t look at me that way.” We are attracted or not by scent and sight. The tone of a voice can be appealing or annoying. Everything in your appearance, presentation and attitude, spoken or not, can impact the relationships we create. Why not initiate a positive response by acting compassionately and empathetically to clients by using your body and mind to walk in their shoes and to truly be present in the moment.

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Written By

As a lifelong resident and local Realtor, Vicki has established herself as a respected member of the San Mateo County real estate community. She’s known for her wit, sarcasm, and her personality that shows through in her posts. You can find her spouting off at Twitter, here at ag, and her personal blog, San Mateo Real Estate



  1. Kevin Sharkey

    February 18, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Such a simple concept, yet deadly powerful. It seems we get so wrapped up in advanced tools and earth shattering theories that the basics are often forgotten.
    Thanks for keepin’ it real.

  2. Vicki Moore

    February 18, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    You betcha. Thanks for the the thanks. I have a good friend who keeps reminding me: high touch is as important as high tech.

  3. Norm Fisher

    February 18, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Interesting story. I have typically been a shirt and tie kind of guy but started “dressing down” a couple of years ago. You’ll often catch me in a pair of dress pants and a nice button down shirt with an open collar. Last year, I was sitting in my office with one of my best clients. Several transactions over the years and many referrals. She manages a kitchen at our tech college and spends her days in some kind of a uniform. We’ve always had great rapport, so she was completely comfortable telling me that she’d prefer to see her Realtor in a suit and tie. It surprised me coming from her.

  4. Vicki Moore

    February 18, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Norm: That is interesting. So do you wear ties when you have appointments with her?

  5. Norm Fisher

    February 18, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    I do. In fact, I’ve worn a tie to work almost everyday since. 🙂 I’ll go more casual when showing homes to people I’ve already established a relationship with. I agree with the idea that you have to dress in manner which is most comfortable for your clients.

  6. Charleston real estate blog

    February 19, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Vicki, right on target. As to wardrobe, I think the Western and Southern US are a bit more casual, the Northeast and Midwest more traditional. Interestingly, I work with a lot of clients relocating from the Northeast and they are always dressed casually for a house hunt.

    Norm, I’m not sure how people dress in your neck of the woods other than to think a parka would be required attire 🙂

  7. Benjamin Bach

    February 19, 2008 at 10:36 am

    as a general rule, blue suits sell better. If all your clients are farmers…. this won’t be true for you

    I am a young, cool Gen Y Realtor, and almost all my clients show up in Jeans for first meetings, and to see properties. I don’t know if it matters that I deal with investors, but I find people expect their professionals to be… professionals. I’ve noticed a big difference when I initially meet people at my office, wearing a suit and tie – as opposed to going to see them at their home which is what I used to do.

    When I go see my lawyer, doctor & accountant, they’re (usually) in a tie, and we’re almost always in their office. I try to emulate that experience with my clients initally.

  8. Charleston real estate blog

    February 19, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Benjamin, my point exactly about the South, I’m seeing my accountant tomorrow (as opposed to Jay’s post that he was already planning on filing an extension) and my accountant’s attire will be strictly casual, not sloppy, but casual. It doesn’t make you any less professional. That’s why Vicki is dead on with her mirror observation.

  9. Vicki Moore

    February 20, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Within the same county where I work, there are two completely different expectations. On the Peninsula you must be dressed in business attire. On the coast, if you’re in business attire they know you’re not local. It’s a much more casual environment and you should be wearing jeans or be considered an outsider.

    The weather is a factor as well. Living on the coast, I need a sweater and boots. If I go over to the Peninsula dressed like that, it’s a real problem – it’s too warm! Then I look like an outsider there.

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