Carol M. Welsh, Author


The Professional Woman


Have you ever wondered why some women instantly appear professional while others seem not to have it completely together? How we act and react is influenced by our four perceptual styles:* Audio, Visual, Feeler, and Wholistic. We are a combination of all four styles but our primary style influences our actions and reactions the most. However, the more in balance you are with the four styles, the easier it is to adapt to another personís style. This adaptability makes you more approachable and people admire your professionalism.


For instance, when you have a meeting with an Audio, you need to cover the main points and in a logical sequence. If you ramble or provide unnecessary details, she might interrupt and ask, ďAnd the point is Ö?Ē As a professional woman, you know to collect your thoughts and remain focused during the meeting. Itís okay if she is not maintaining eye contact with you because she can concentrate better if she turns her ear toward you or looks down to write a few notes.


On the other hand, if you break eye contact with a Visual, it has the same effect as if you interrupted her. When meeting with a Visual, itís show time. If you simply tell her your plans for a project, she will have a blank face because she is trying to visualize what is needed and the steps involved. As a professional woman, you understand her feeling that ďif itís going to be done right, I have to do it myself.Ē Point out what can be delegated and what is acceptable, even if itís not at her standard of perfection. Otherwise, sheíll get so bogged down in the details that she might not meet the deadline.


A Feeler is willing to work on whatever needs to be done as long as she understands how to do it. Audios have a tendency to be blunt, which can intimidate a Feeler. As a professional woman, you are aware of this sensitivity, so speak with a supportive tone. You also realize she needs to have a chance to try what you are asking her to do because she doesnít want to make a mistake. Not only do you encourage her to take on new challenges, you show your appreciation for the many tasks she has completed.


Because a Wholistic has the ability to quickly grasp the whole picture of what needs to be done, she is ready to take action immediately. As a professional woman, you support her ability to do upfront planning and to delegate the rest of the responsibilities to team members. She has the ability to multitask as long as others can assist in completing what she or the team started.


First impressions influence peopleís perceptions. Regardless of the widespread slackening of standards in today's culture, a good first impression will always be in style. Ten impressions (in random order) that might cause a woman to be perceived as unprofessional are:

1.   Too much skin exposure
Are you there to focus on the project or topics, or to be a distraction because of your revealing neckline or hemline? A professional womanís clothing and make-up complement her in an understated fashion so the attention is more on her actions or words than on her attire.

2.   Gum chewing
Save it for when youíre working at your desk. Better yet, leave it at home.

3.   Cussing and telling jokes with sexual innuendos
This does not make you ďone of the guys.Ē Rather, it might make others feel uncomfortable because itís unprofessional behavior for men and women. Don't give anyone cause to claim sexual harassment.

4.   Displays of temper
A professional woman is aware how quickly people will lose respect if you canít control your temper or use it to control or intimidate others.

5.   Gossiping about colleagues
Gossiping is an insidious trap. A professional woman is able to change the subject or return negative gossip with words of kindness about the person. When you turn a deaf ear, gossipers soon learn not to bother you.

6.   Distracting movementsólegs constantly moving, twirling a strand of hair, nail biting, tapping a pencil, clicking a pen, etc.
Itís amazing the things we do subconsciously. A professional woman sits in a relaxed manner or forward in her chair, which shows sheís interested in what is being said. Oprah is an excellent example. The current trend when youíre sitting at a table is to keep your hands where they can be seen. If you keep them under the table, others might wonder what you are hiding.

7.   Being disorganized
This leads to misplacing things, being unprepared, appearing scattered. When you are organized, you can quickly adapt to a sudden change in plans rather than becoming confused and disoriented.

8.   Looking unkempt
One of my friends buys most of her clothes at resale shops. She passes over trendy clothing (here today and gone tomorrow) and looks for classic styles that require little or no ironing and look fresh all day. When she steps into the workplace, she looks and feels like a professional woman. She keeps a ďspot removerĒ pen and an extra pair of hosiery in her desk. Even if I travel only overnight, I always take an extra change of clothing, including shoes, so I am prepared for a quick change if something gets spilled on me or my bra breaks (it has happened!). Clean hair is a must. If you have an early appointment and donít have time to do your hair, consider a wig in a professional style. It isnít expensive, you look great, and you can throw it into your briefcase and put it on in a restroom. 

9.   Monopolizing the discussion, including interrupting others
A professional woman listens attentively and speaks to make a point. Because she doesnít crave the attention, she doesnít repeat what someone just said. She simply nods or says she agrees with the speaker. When she is hanging out with friends, lively chatter and laughter is the norm. However, friends appreciate a good listener too.

10. Arriving late
When I was in my early twenties and living in
Chicago, I did some modeling jobs. If I was ever late for a job, that would be the end of my career. No excuses! Photographers or customers are waiting, which means money is being spent, time is being wasted. I didnít care for modeling but am grateful that it forced me to stop being late. I learned to have everything ready the night before. I left in plenty of time to allow for the unexpected. I learned to set priorities. I did what had to be done first. The dishes could wait, if necessary. A professional woman values other peopleís time as well as her own and arrives on time or early. Occasionally I use a timer to alert me if I have a meeting or appointment, since I can easily lose track of time when Iím working.


As a professional woman, the time to focus on you is when youíre getting ready for work. When the professional woman is looking back at you in your mirror, you are ready to focus on the task at hand and on others rather than yourself. Now, thatís a true professional.


* For more information on the four perceptional styles, visit

Copyright © 2005-2006 Carol M. Welsh. All Rights Reserved