Self Defense/dealing with people
Marc, you're saying that the relationship you've built up with people is important when dealing with them, but when dealing with them first time, do they compare you with people they dealt before that share your traits (unconsciously)?
Traits like facial structure, clothing, demeanure, posture, position, etc?
Yes, no and a whole lot more.
Everything about you sends messages. Your clothing choice, your hair style, your mannerisms. It all communicates to other people things about you. You control that message.
How people interpret that message is something you can't control. Some will interpret it positively, some negatively. But most won't give a rat's ass; you're just background color and noise to them.
What has become a serious stressor in our modern age is that we are no longer uniquely tribal and we tell ourselves we shouldn't be. So now instead of just trying to 'impress' a small select group, we're often trying to impress the world. Many people end up freaking out about the message they send getting bad or 'meh' reviews. These people interpret this as they aren't attractive enough, impressive enough, or too fat, too ugly ...
Still others dress and communicate for the specific message of fuck you, go away, I don't belong to a uber tribe (or your tribe) and I don't want to either. I am not one of you so fuck off. (Yet they remain inside society, getting the benefits and safety.)
Here's the thing anthropologist Robin Dunbar came up with the idea that we as humans can really only handle between 100 and 250 solid, sustained fully functioning relationships (Dunbar's Number). Depends on the person as to which side of the scale they land on. They also range from intimate (few), family (more but still limited) friends (equal/more/less) co-workers (more) clients/regular customers/company representatives/teachers/students (most). These are the people who you need to focus the most on, not the other millions out there.
Yes how you present yourself has an influence with how 'deep' into their circle someone will want to bring you. But
a) it's not the only issue. (It's one on a check list of thousands.)
b) it's a two way street (Do you really want them in your circle?)
c) given the needs of the situation, there may be other factors way, way more important (when I need a plumber, I need someone who knows what he is doing and whom I can trust, not someone who presents well in a suit)
Where the message you present can work against you is less about race, aggression or conflict than it does the person has had bad experiences with someone who was sending the same messages. It's really easy to run off to racism, class tension and sexism, with this idea but all of those miss both the point and are miniscule in comparison to how it normally works. That is someone looks at another person and say to him/herself 'this person has more issues than National Geographic,' 'this person isn't someone I want to know' or 'this person is an asshole.' Way more often than not it's a matter of the people's 'standard operating procedures' are simply oil and water.
For establishing ongoing relationships, oil and water 'vetos' are way more common than 'clicks' (We got a lot in common and we can get along). Even rarer are people who approach it from the standpoint of "You don't care how I do it at home and I don't care how you do it at home. You and I have to work out how things are going to be between us')
For 'professional' and fast social interactions, there are short-term scripts that both parties (should) know and (should) follow that guide interactions (like ordering food at a restaurant or paying for goods at the market). These allow for ritualized interactions between oil and water people so each can get things done.