Using colour psychology to send a message

What we wear says a lot about us and sometimes we send the wrong message.   I have covered creating a positive impression in a previous post.

However, did you know that the colour of what you are wearing can also have an impact? If you want to get it right as a professional speaker then you need to know a little about colour psychology. Get this wrong and your audience can actually find you repelling rather than appealing!

The Colour Psychology Rainbow

Let’s take a look at what colours are saying about you.

Red is power- but also anger

The positive aspects of red are that it denotes warmth, strength and courage. The negative aspects are the link to fighting, aggression and dominance. Yes, if you wear a red suit on stage you will be noticed, but your audience is likely to have their adrenaline levels raised, so be prepared for heckling! Some stand-up comedians wear red deliberately to raise the temperature of the room for lively debate.

My advice- use red only as an accent colour, a tie, a scarf or a piece of jewellery to enliven a plain suit or dress.

Yellow is traditionally sunshine and happiness

Yellow is an emotional colour. The colour psychology of yellow is a balance between lifting the spirits and making people feel depressed! It is also a poor colour choice for writing – apologies to those of you who find the heading in yellow hard to read- I am illustrating my case!

My advice, yellow is a colour best used in combination with contrast colours such as blue, to add some warmth without being overwhelming.

Green is the colour of nature

The colour psychology of green is that of balance. It is right in the centre of the spectrum, easy on the eye and does not require the brain to make any adjustments to see it. As an outfit colour it can be very effective, as long as you choose the greens closest to those found in nature.  However, from an aesthetic point of view, a green suit without other colour accent or relief could be a bit too much. The negative colour psychology of green is that too much can be seen as somewhat bland.

My advice, a green shirt or blouse is an effective and positive addition to the more traditional suit.

Business team in different colours
Business team in different colours

Blue is the world’s favourite colour!

This is the colour of intellect, of calm considered thought. It is easy on the eye and affects us mentally rather than physically. The colour psychology of blue is that of clear communication so it is no wonder that it is a favoured colour for business outfits. It is extensively used in presentations for a good reason- we can easily read it as a colour. The downside of blue is the perception that it is a cold colour.

My advice- experiment with the blue spectrum from navy to turquoise till you find the one that flatters you most. Contrast with some red or yellow accents to add interest.

Indigo, Violet, Pink – modern use is increasing

Purple was traditionally a royal colour and signifies spirituality. Pink is traditionally girly, but effective as a tie to set off an otherwise dull grey suit.

My advice- these are great colours in combination with blues and to contrast grey

Black the traditional business suit colour

The colour psychology associated with black is one of seriousness. Too much and you can be funereal and intimidating.

My advice- never wear black outfits without a warmer contrast colour in the shirt or blouse- or you will push your audience away.

Grey is dull!!

Safe, serious, but essentially flat, neutral. Too much grey is depressing and actually the colour psychology here is one of lacking in confidence!

My advice- choose a light grey if you favour it as a suit colour and contrast with red, pink, purple, even yellow to lift your audience’s mood.

White signifies purity and cleanliness.

The only proper use of white in public speaking is for shirts or blouses. You will disappear into the back drop in a white suit.

My advice- avoid white outfits on stage they are impractical and in certain cultures are a funeral colour in others best worn by the very young or at weddings!

Get your colour psychology right on stage and you will draw your audience to you and your own confidence will grow.

You can read some research on colour psychology here

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