Would you like to increase your impact?

Creating an impact and developing gravitas

It’s probably true that we could all do with some work on our presentation style.  I’m not particularly talking about standing up in front of an audience and delivering a speech, but more about the day to day dealings with others at work.

Our own awareness of how others perceive us is probably fairly minimal.  When did you last ask yourself

how am I coming across?

Most of us are usually too busy, getting stuff done, to stop and ask this question.

However, I do often hear others saying “why don’t people listen to what I have to say?” or “why do people not take me seriously?”  If you really want to communicate with others in an effective, impactful way (and wouldn’t we all?), then start by asking this excellent and essential question.

how am I coming across?

Have you changed your style?

Over the years, you may have changed little in our communication style.  From first job to wherever you are now, there will be aspects of how you come across that will need to have changed. For some, it happens naturally as they gain knowledge and experience. For others, it is not so easy. But with some attention, this can be worked on.

Gravitas

If you are in a senior position, where others look to you for expertise, then coming across with some gravitas, would, I think most will agree, a good thing.  By gravitas, I mean a good dose of dignity, measure, impact.  Saying something with gravitas would mean that others want to hear it and will respect your words.

When someone behaves and speaks with gravitas, others listen. They are more likely to be believed, their opinions have more weight and others are more likely to agree with them.  Someone with gravitas is someone that, generally speaking, others want to follow.

The question is then, how do we come across with gravitas, how do we create the desired impact?

Here are some straightforward tips that can be adopted by most, to help you increase your impact and gravitas.

Don’t

  • remain quiet thinking others will have already thought of your point (they probably won’t, and if they have, they may be thinking the same as you.)
  • speak quietly and look down – this may seem obvious, but few of us are that self aware.
  • forget to breath! (seems obvious, but in important meetings, this can happen!)
  • apologise “I’m sorry to interrupt” “I’m sorry to disagree”.
  • ask if you’re making sense – many very capable people I have worked with will make a good point or present a great idea and then ask “does that make sense?” The effect is that the listeners are left with doubt.
  • make self depreciating jokes or put yourself down “I’m not very good at this, but” “It may sound stupid but…”
  • avoid silence – silence can be good and there is no need to fill it with mutterings, distractions etc
  • avoid eye contact – looking people in the eye builds trust, helps connect.
  • feel you have to instantly respond to questions or demands.  Take your time to consider.

Do

  • stand tall. Even before you speak, you will exude confidence.
  • relax.  People with gravitas are relaxed and have a quiet confidence.
  • smile! People like people who smile.
  • speak with a clear voice, don’t rush.  No need to explain the effect mumbling has.
  • give yourself some positive self talk.  If you are in the right mindset, this will come across.
  • use the right language. See the ‘dont’s’.
  • believe you are worth listening to.  If you don’t, this will most likely come across.
  • assume others want to listen to you. Most people will.
  • make a statement then wait. Don’t fill the silence with explanations, apologies, whatever just out of nervousness, or dislike for silence.  It will dilute your message.
  • take time to always be clear about what your opinion is.  You will come across much better!
  • be yourself.  It’s far too much effort trying to be someone else, and people will see through you.

Start doing something differently

If you have always behaved in a way that might come across as hesitant, apologetic, a little under confident, then that is how people will have come to expect you to behave.  By tweaking some behaviours, you will quickly create more impact as you will be behaving in an unexpected way, which will instantly make people notice that something is different, albeit unconsciously.  Choose to make a couple of small changes to your behaviour and notice if / how people react differently and how you feel different.  It can be useful to keep a diary on this if you really want to change the way you come across.

Imitation

If you work with or know someone who comes across with gravitas, observe how they do it.  What aspects of their personality and behaviour mean that they create impact when communicating.  Make a conscious effort to copy some of these aspect. It may feel strange to start with, but will become second nature after a while.

Everybody deserves to be listened to, but we don’t always choose behaviours that communicate that we want to be listened to.  We sabotage ourselves with body language, choice of words, general behaviour.  And remember that not everyone is good at listening, so we may have to work a little harder with them. But in short, by adapting language and behaviour, we can all increase our impact on others and develop a healthy dose of gravitas.