Gravitas - Your Intention Heard and Felt
Calm; Professional; Respectful; Dignified; Assertive; Impact.
Gravitas is a learned or acquired capability - a calm, steady, measured approach which gains attention and respect from others.
Who do you know that has a natural gravitas? Think of people who command respect by the way they articulate themselves. I remember some of my school teachers. There were those emotional, almost panicky individuals who found it a constant battle to control the class. Then there were those who caned us for the slightest transgression and we behaved, but only out of fear and didn’t necessarily learn much. And then there were those individuals, who addressed us as adults in a confident, calm and steady manner, maintained eye-contact, and gained our respect and attention.
And what about the parent who has something serious to address? It’s natural to respond emotionally after having repeated the same messages day after day, but when a parent purposely and calmly addresses a child's specific behaviour, they have immediate impact.
Here are some practical tips to help you project gravitas
Ensure that your emotions are under control
It’s not always practical to wait until you are completely calm before addressing some issues but it is important that you behave calmly when doing so.
Speak at a calm and measured pace
When practising speaking with gravitas (yes, it takes practice), it usually feels strange at first speaking slowly and deliberately but it doesn’t appear strange to others.
It is not necessary to raise your voice to be heard. Speaking loudly or shouting often evokes a defend/attack response.
Use silence and pauses
- Become comfortable with silence before speaking, after you’ve made a point, and when you have said enough.
- Make an impact even before you start to speak by considering what you are about to say before saying it. Start with a few seconds of eye-contact and then once you’ve made the connection, begin to speak calmly.
- Pause for a few seconds to allow significant points to sink in. Ensure you maintain eye-contact whilst doing so.
- When you have made your point, stop talking.
- When someone else is speaking, give your undivided attention and try to understand what they are saying. Listening to understand will project a reciprocal gravitas.
- When they have finished speaking, don’t rush to answer. Wait a few seconds and consider what they have said before responding.
- If someone interrupts you, let them. It’s pointless trying to talk when someone else is talking and they are certainly not listening at that time. Wait until they are completely finished before speaking again.
Maintain a relaxed and confident posture
Leaning forward might be perceived as aggressive, and slouching could be perceived as submissive. Relax and maintain a confident posture.
Face the person you are addressing
It is important to face the person you are addressing, be on the same level (avoid physically talking down to them), and maintain eye-contact.
Keep it simple and to the point. It’s more about the quality than the quantity.
Irritators are unconscious words or phrases that have the potential to irritate others. These words or phrases don’t add to the clarity of the communication and very often create a barrier. Many people find themselves unconsciously using Irritators as 'fillers' because they are not comfortable with silence. This often undermines their intended communication. For example, as soon as someone says, “With the greatest respect…”, you can be sure that an insult is to follow.
Irritators are normal, everyone uses them. Most people won’t notice when you use them. But when you consciously eliminate them from your language, you immediately improve the impact of your message, the clarity of your intention, and your Gravitas.
Be aware of the following and any other unconscious words or phrases when you are communicating. Listen to others, ask for feedback, record yourself, and watch how, by eliminating these words and phrases you can have an immediate positive impact.
- With respect.
- Don’t take this the wrong way….
- I don’t want to be funny, but….
- Obviously (for example - “Obviously you’d agree).
- At the end of the day (it gets dark?).
- But....( as in, “You really approached the project in a positive manner, but…).
- I understand how you feel.
- I'm being quite reasonable / fair / generous (implies they aren’t).
- It goes without saying.
- It’s not rocket science.
- Let me level with you / To be honest / To be perfectly frank.
- You know (extremely common used as often as three times in every sentence).
- You know what I mean (the full version of the above).
- You must understand / remember.
- Plus any unnecessary jargon, swearing etc.
Eliminate unnecessary ‘Softeners’
Good communication is clear, concise and to the point. ‘Softeners’ can reduce the impact of your entire message. Look out for any of these unnecessary words and phrases within your speech. For example, “I’m sorry to bother you but, I think that it would possibly be a little bit better, if you could perhaps, you know, if it’s not too much trouble, send it to me directly, if that’s okay with you?” Leaving out the unnecessary softeners would communicate your message clearly and assertively, “Could you please send it to me directly so that I can work on it right away.”
Typical softeners include:
- I think (when you are sure).
- Sort of.
- Kind of.
There are times when it is important to soften your message in order to be sensitive towards a particular situation. However, there are many times when it is unsuitable and undermines your assertiveness and credibility. When you project positively and with gravitas, people will respond accordingly.
Use it to show appreciation
Gravitas is also a wonderful technique to use when addressing positive behaviour. Positive feedback is specific information about what someone is doing well. It is important to always let them know exactly what you think was done well and why you like it. This will ensure that the feedback is seen to be sincere and the specific behaviour is repeated.
People with higher levels of gravitas tend to be noticed, listened to, respected, and followed. Gravitas is closely related to assertiveness and charisma, it conveys confidence and authenticity. It enables us to influence and inspire others. It is useful for leading others, coaching, training, selling, presenting, negotiating, and developing all kinds of relationships.