and confident How can you communicate with clarity and confidence 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. In other words, we may come off as accusatory and showing judgment. On the other hand, ‘I statements’ are a positive way to show assertiveness and accuracy. “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 clear and confident tone. Questions that begin with ‘What’ are those that get others to think and reflect such as, “What have you tried before?” or “What are your options?”. These questions encourage the person to reflect on their situation which is critical for adult learning. They create personal breakthroughs that help others grow and develop. This often leads to creating strong rapport and raising the level of trust. 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, especially when in a phone meeting when others cannot see body language. 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 sending signals through our bodies, sometimes even unintentionally that may be confusing. An intended focus on our nonverbal signals can increase our rapport with others which can increase our clarity 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?”, which 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, which then can change our outcomes.
Changing one’s body stance can change how your presence displays 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 more self-assured, self-reliant, and positive, you show up that way to others, which increases your personal presence.
Another key part of presence is to speak with clear confidence. When we are confident, we know both our content, and we know our audience. This helps with clarifying our message. Think about the purpose of your conversation or the email you are about to write. Defining the purpose helps you be clear in your thinking and specific in your speaking and writing. Determine your critical points, then make them succinctly. When you articulate your points and clearly state your rationale, you exhibit a strong presence. Staying actively engaged by listening is another critical way to show a strong presence. Listening to others’ views, opinions, and feelings and demonstrating that you are listening are other ways to build rapport and build a 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.