As I said in my previous post, there are 3 fundamental influencers that inspire others to follow, place their confidence and trust in you:
- What goes on inside your mind
- What you project
- What impression you leave
Today, I wanted to explore what you project that ensures your audience respects and listens to you.
What You Project
What are the unconscious influencers you broadcast to others? These go unnoticed though leave a lasting impression.
- Your presentation – your audience will be assessing how you dress, how you take care of your appearance, how you hold yourself, your poise, your manner.
- Your focus – how you concentrate on the task in hand whilst taking the other person into consideration. They are well aware of the quality and depth of your listening.
- Your communication – when your body language demonstrates your attention, then the appropriate register of language, your voice and your delivery will give them valuable information. All these are need to be relaxed, pleasing and persuasive.
As I’ve said elsewhere, when you look the part, people believe you. Want to be partner in a big City firm of lawyers? You’ll dress formally in a suit (preferably designer or tailored), tie or scarf, well polished shoes, modestly cut hair and minimal yet expensive jewellery. You’re not likely to be taken seriously if you have piercings, tattoos and lank, greasy hair. Want to be leader in advertising? You are more likely to seen in shirtsleeves and even a T-shirt if you’re male, though women tend to look more formal – look at this list of senior advertising executives . To be seen as leader in your organisation, dress the part. The uniform signals your role.
It’s also worth examining how you hold yourself. Do you have an upright carriage and look people in the eye? Does your body language suggest you are confident and comfortable in your skin? It’s so easy nowadays to slump in front of the computer monitor and acquire round shoulders and a pot belly when you are working at your desk all day. A bad habit I’ve noticed with particularly women is standing at parties or at conferences – or even presenting, with crossed legs and arms. Unbalanced and very defensive. A favourite exercise of mine just before entering a room is to imagine there’s a thread coming out from the middle of my head being pulled upwards. It lengthens my neck and spine whilst I relax my shoulders. It helps to centre my balance and makes me look strong and confident, particularly in high pressure situations. And having taken on board Dr Amy Cuddy’s wise words, it has an effect on my confidence and outlook.
Pay close attention the other person or people around you. If you do that, unconsciously you’ll automatically mirror their body language. Listening closely is a fine art and deeply flattering. Having made a living out of listening to people for the last 30 years, I’ve come to realise that you can never do it too well. It takes energy and concentration. You are watching and listening not only to what is said, you are listening to what is not said through the minute changes of the other person’s facial and body language and voice. It is reassuringly rare to come across a supremely good liar. Most people are trustworthy most of the time. The truth will “leak” from those marginal differences, those fraction of a second revelations. You might also discover that the speaker will say something dubious and other colleagues or board members will show their discomfort. Keep vigilant, keep watchful. It’s particularly important when you are in negotiation – as a supplier, as a potential customer, as an investor.
What you say and how you say it will leave a lasting impression. Your voice is one of the most powerful influencers of the other’s unconscious decision making. The voice, situated between the inner and outer self is a reflector what’s really going on inside. It may well crack when the speaker is powerfully stirred. Look at this wonderful and heartfelt speech by Patrick Stewart as an example of someone whose voice normally has a smooth, resonant tone breaking under the strain of talking about deeply felt events in childhood.
It’s as well to cultivate a warm, deep and harmonious tone to inspire trust and confidence. Speakers that use the major key in their voices (the white notes on a piano), sound convincing and trustworthy. Those who use the minor key come across as uncertain, worried and lack confidence. This is exaggerated if they also use the uplift in pitch at the end of sentences beloved of Australian soaps and Californian youth.
The language you use also has the power to inspire. I was at a conference where Lara Morgan spoke. She used direct, no-nonsense language that was utterly clear and straight to the point. As an entrepreneur herself, she used the language of her entrepreneurial audience. It spoke to the heart. It was very exciting and enabling.
Adapt what you say and the ‘register’ of language dependent on the audience you are addressing. The words you use to those on the shop floor will be different to those you use in the boardroom. However, choose to be succinct and precise in every situation. It gives you time to listen to others and adds weight and punch. It shows you to be self disciplined and rigorous.
A last suggestion. When you cultivate a serious and committed attitude to what you do, you come across with gravitas. This doesn’t mean you don’t smile from time to time. Though being extravagant with your smiles diminishes your impact. And a smile can turn into a grimace if you’re tense and nervous. You don’t need to smile until there’s something to smile about. Then everyone around you feels warmed and rewarded.