As a TrainingPros relationship manager in the NJ/NY Market, I’m looking forward to serving as one of the presenters at the Union County Means Business Women’s Conference on May 17th in New Jersey. The session “Powerful Presence - Communicate with Confidence & Clarity” is one topic that resonates with many who strive to make a positive, powerful first impression. Bear in mind, one’s choice of words, tone, and body language all factor into the impressions we leave others. Impressions make an impact. What type of impact are you making? What type of impact do you wish to make?
Let’s start with the obvious: yes, depending on the situation, one’s choice of words does matter. Words set a tone. Certain words are divisive - such as the word “you.” Think about it: how do you feel when someone says “You were of no help at all” or “You seem to be struggling with the process, aren’t you?” Research has shown that the accusatory ‘you statements’ can put the other person on the defensive and can create anger and discontent with others which potentially causes disagreements and conflicts. When ‘you statements’ are used, we are telling the individual what he or she did not do, whether it was right or wrong. Basically we are accusatory and showing judgment. On the other hand, ‘I statements’ are a positive way to show assertiveness. “I prefer that we move the meeting date” or “I feel overworked and stressed and would appreciate some additional help on this project.”
The questions we ask others can also set a tone. Questions that begin with ‘What’ are those that get others to think and reflect. “What have you tried before?” “What are your options?” “What is getting in the way of success?” These questions encourage the person to reflect on their situation which is critical for adult learning. They create personal breakthroughs which help others grow and develop. This often leads to creating strong rapport. Higher trust also develops. Try to avoid asking questions that start with “Why” as these can put the other on the defensive. Think about this: how might you feel if I asked you “Why are you late?” or “Why did you approach the project that way?”
Remember, our voice tone carries a message and is something to be consciously aware of particularly when in a phone meeting when others cannot detect body language. This is particularly important for visual learners. Messages sent through body language, facial expressions, posture, stance, and eye contact are sometimes received in the way we intended or sometimes in an unintended way. We are constantly emitting signals through our bodies, whether we are aware of it or not. At times we could be sending confusing or mixed messages. An intended focus on our nonverbal signal can increase our rapport with others which can increase our influence and confidence.
Research has shown that nonverbal communication affects how others perceive you and what they feel about you. Dr. Ann Cuddy set out to answer the question, “Does our body language impact the way we feel about ourselves?” What she found was yes, it does! Some may have heard of the ‘power pose’ ~ the open stance of arms up and wide open, coined by Dr. Cuddy. This pose exudes power as compared to the closed power pose, where one tends to be more closed off. Her research has proven that our body movements can change our minds. Our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes outcomes.
Changing one’s body stance can change how your presence shows up to others. According to the Webster dictionary, one definition of presence is “a noteworthy quality of poise and effectiveness.” How can one exhibit poise? How can you give others a positive first impression? How can you use your power effectively? Dr. Cuddy suggests that if you practice high power poses before a big event, such as an interview, a sales pitch, or a key stakeholder meeting, you feel more confident. When you feel confident, you are! No one can argue our feelings. When you feel more self-assured, self-reliant, and positive, you show up that way to others. It actually increases your personal presence.
Another key part of presence is to speak with clarity and conciseness. When we are confident, we know both our content, and we know our audience. This helps us have clarity. Some tips: Think before you speak. Think about the purpose of your conversation or the email you are about to write. Thinking this through upfront helps you be clear in your thinking. When you are clear in your thinking, you are clearer in your speaking and writing. Think about the points you are making. Determine your point, then make it succinctly. When you articulate your points and clearly state your rationale, you exhibit strong presence. Staying actively engaged by listening is another critical way to show strong presence. Listening to others’ views, opinions, and feelings and demonstrating that you are listening are other ways to build rapport and build presence.
Bottom line, you can change your professional presence by demonstrating clarity and confidence in the way in which you communicate: through words, tone of voice, and nonverbal communication.