Sometimes, it takes a little extra effort to get the respect you deserve as a professional. To build credibility, “everything about you counts,” says Denise Dudley, psychologist, author and business consultant. That’s especially true for…
Sometimes, it takes a little extra effort to get the respect you deserve as a professional.
To build credibility, “everything about you counts,” says Denise Dudley, psychologist, author and business consultant. That’s especially true for women, people of color, young workers and people of smaller physical stature, who are prone to being ignored or overlooked at work.
Learn more about how your presentation, speech, relationships and demonstrated value can convince your boss, co-workers and clients to take you seriously.
Physical cues send strong signals to co-workers, managers and clients.
Humans make “spontaneous” judgments about other people based on facial expressions, according to psychology research published in 2018 in the journal Cognition. To create a good impression during a work meeting, start with a neutral, but positive facial expression, then break into a smile, Dudley advises. Make direct eye contact with every other person in the room, especially when you’re sharing important information or giving instructions. But don’t hold a laser stare for too long.
“If I don’t look away, what happens is I appear aggressive or intimidating,” Dudley says.
To project authority, it’s important to take up an appropriate amount of physical space rather than shrink inward, writes media executive and investor Fran Hauser in her career advice book “The Myth of the Nice Girl.” To do this in conversation, Dudley recommends standing in direct alignment to your discussion partner with your shoulders pulled back. Standing up to make a point during a seated meeting will automatically draw attention to what you’re saying, Hauser writes.
Fidgeting suggests nervousness, so do your best to stifle those urges. While seated, keep both feet on the floor and don’t jiggle your legs. Avoid playing with your hair and touching your face, Dudley says.
Tone and volume play a significant role in communication. To sound powerful and convincing, avoid using vocal fry (ending statements in a low, creaky register), upspeak (ending statements with a rising pitch that sounds like a question) and the high pitches typically reserved for talking to babies and animals, Dudley recommends.
If you have a soft voice, practice projecting so everyone in the room can hear without straining, she says. “It is your job, not the listener’s, to make sure you’re as loud as you need to be.”
Using verbal fillers such as “um,” “like,” “OK” or “you know what I mean” can undermine your credibility.
“It is far more powerful if I need to stop to just be quiet for a moment,” Dudley says. “I do not ever fall into the temptation of filling that space with a noise.”
Women in particular tend to habitually apologize at work without good reason, Hauser writes. They should instead practice expressing gratitude by swapping “sorry” for “thank you.”
When starting a new job, set up meetings with key company leaders to learn their preferred ways of working and how you can help them achieve their goals. Make sure to share your expectations and standards, too.
“If they have any value system themselves, they’re going to respect that,” Sims says.
To identify possible mentors and sponsors, watch how specific colleagues interact with others at the office and how people respond to their communication, Sims recommends. When you’ve found candidates who have important connections and good rapport, ask to participate in their projects and help them meet their goals.
“They’re going to give you opportunities to create more visibility and help you to understand your work culture better,” Sims says. “Sometimes we have to be resourceful with how we strategically create access for ourselves to the people who can help us to grow.”
After you’ve built strong relationships, seek feedback from your allies about how they and others at the office perceive you to ensure everyone is taking you seriously.
“You want to go to someone you trust and who is going to give you an honest opinion,” Sims says.
— How is my work benefiting the customer or client?
— How is my work helping the organization become more effective?
— How does my work relate to the success of my manager, company leader or the organization at large?
— What metric do I use to show the effects of my work or the work of my team?
— Whose lives are improved because of the work I do?
“Employees who have that mindset not only are going to be more successful, they’re also going to reap the benefits of increased advancement opportunities and increased visibility with senior levels of management,” Wiley says.
“The more your work can be measured against criteria that are near and dear to the heart of the organization and its mission,” Wiley says, the more valuable you’ll be, and the more respect you’ll earn.