When asked what advice she would give professional women on the move, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright replied, “Learn to interrupt.” We doubt that she meant raising your hand and politely waiting to be called on—a common female nonverbal that sends the wrong signal. As a female professional, if you want to be perceived as confident and credible, you need to be aware of the nonverbal signals you send when you communicate. Read on to learn how to align your words with your actions. . .
Body-language, and nonverbal cues like tone of voice, play a huge role in the impression you make on people, and in your credibility and effectiveness as a communicator. Here are three ways to take command of your nonverbal communication.
Make a Powerful Entrance There are several interesting differences between how men and women typically enter a meeting room. The first has to do with the “stuff” you carry in. Men are likely to sit down to the table with maybe a smart phone or a laptop. Women, on the other the other hand, sometimes carry in everything but the kitchen sink. Leadership development expert and keynote speaker Cindy Solomon paints the picture: “Non-verbally, our research has shown that men, when they see us walking into a meeting and we've got four different bags and a notepad and a workbook, they see us as carrying in baggage.” So, lighten your load when you attend meetings so people focus on you and not your “baggage.”
Another difference between the way men and women enter meeting spaces is that often, men will walk up to each attendee and greet them, or offer a handshake to introduce themselves. Solomon calls this “level setting,” and says women don’t often do it, to their detriment. “Unless they [men] understand where in the hierarchy you are, what you're contributing, you're invisible to them,” she says. “We have seen in the exact same meeting scenario, when a woman walks in, gives her full name, and gives her title, she is interrupted less. They remember what she said. They remember what her responsibilities are.”
Align What You Say With What You Do Research tells us that people pay as much or more attention—consciously or unconsciously—to your gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice than to your words. So, if your words are accompanied by a strong stance and gestures, genuine eye contact and appropriate tone of voice, people will see you as believable and effective. On the other hand, if you have a habit of twirling your hair, fiddling with your jewelry, or smiling incessantly no matter how serious the subject, you risk sending messages that undermine your credibility, like “I’m nervous,” or “I’m really not sure of what I’m saying.”
Tone of voice, cadence and language “tics” also send strong nonverbal signals, and if they don’t line up with your words, people will either feel confused, mistrustful or even annoyed. Speak so softly that people can barely hear you, and you and your message will be perceived as weak and not believable. Deliver at warp speed and you’ll be seen as painfully nervous or maybe not so concerned that people understand what you’re saying. Then there are the two persistent female nonverbal tics that drive just about everybody nuts: the “uptalk” that turns a statement into a question (“I really believe we need a bigger budget for this project?”); and peppering conversation with filler words, such as “like” (“Like, I really think the problem is, like, solvable.”).
Own Your Space If you’re presenting, stand tall but relaxed. Instead of being rooted to the spot, move around as you speak. If you’ve been invited to a meeting, take a seat AT the table, not in a chair against the wall. During any meeting, sit tall and show your interest by leaning into the conversation. Silicon Valley executive Colleen Berube says, “When I’m presenting I'm pretty physical. I get up, I move around. Even in places where people think we would all just sit at the table and talk to each other, if you stand up, you automatically create presence.”
So, pay as much attention to your nonverbal communication as to your words. People will notice.
# # #
PowerSpeaking, Inc. teaches these powerful techniques and more in all of our workshops. Sign up for any of our programs and you’ll learn how to be a speaker people listen to. Register two or more people for any of the courses below by responding to this blog and you will receive a 10% DISCOUNT:
Confident Speaking For Women – Strategies to be clear, confident, and courageous in your communications February 12, 2019 (9am –12pm), San Francisco, CA
SpeakingUp: Presenting to Decision Makers® – Strategies to effectively communicate with executives. November 27, 2018, Redwood City, CA; January 15, 2019, Redwood City, CA
PowerSpeaking® – Be organized, confident and manage the dynamics of the room. November 28 & 29, 2018, Redwood City, CA; January 29 & 30, 2019, Redwood City, CA
FastTrackSpeaking® – Effective speaking to a wide range of audiences from team meetings, conferences, to decision makers. February 26 & 27, 2019, Redwood City, CA
HighTechSpeaking® – Simplify complexity: Making high-impact technical presentations. November 7 & 8, 2018, Redwood City, CA; February 26, 2019 (1-day program), Redwood City, CA
To register, respond to this blog or click here.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
The PowerSpeaking, Inc. Team.