Some people have an authority, a presence, that’s often called gravitas. It is defined as “Seriousness and importance of manner, causing feelings of respect and trust in others.”
When some people walk into a room, others take notice. When they speak, others listen. When they put forward suggestions, others are minded to follow. People with gravitas are typically considered to have ‘weight’, authority and ‘executive presence’. They’re taken seriously and thought to have leadership qualities.
The perception others have of you is critical to you achieving what you want both personally and professionally – and gravitas is a crucial element. It’s more than a nice-to-have. Technical skills will only take you so far. Actively managing the impact you make, by consciously using gravitas, will enhance your reputation, make you influential and help you be more charismatic.
The good news is that while gravitas can seem entirely natural – and does to some extent arise from your personality and character – it’s a set of interpersonal and communication skills that can be developed.
Here are 12 secrets to mastering gravitas:
This is what defines gravitas. Be focused, earnest, sombre. Have ‘weight’.
2. Be deliberate
Convey a sense that everything is under control in what you say and what you do. Minimise spontaneity. Maximise efficiency. Move slowly and smoothly. Learn to sit completely still – don’t fidget. Gesture naturally but avoid distracting, repetitive movements.
3. Be concise and precise
Say less. Don’t repeat and don’t ramble. Make your point then stop. Avoid being muddled and vague. Express your ideas succinctly. Don’t give too much information. Articulate your words clearly. Focus on the key messages.
4. Stand and sit tall
Height imparts authority. Stand strong, put down firm roots and think ‘one inch taller’. Do the same when sitting. Lean forward slightly to show engagement.
5. Make your voice deep and resonant
The voice of gravitas is deep and resonant, which is why Margaret Thatcher (Prime Minister of Great Britain for many years) took voice coaching for six years to lower her pitch. Allow the voice to resonate from the chest, not just the head, for maximum power and depth.
6. Pause and be comfortable with silence
Brief pauses during which you’re silent convey authority and control. When you’ve made your point, stop talking. Avoid saying ‘um’ and ‘er’ – it makes you sound uncertain and uncomfortable.
7. Take up more space
Alpha males and females express their status and dominance through being relaxed and expansive. Never make yourself look small and unimportant.
8. Breathe slow and deep
While others may not be consciously aware of your breathing pattern, they will unconsciously tune into it if they’re in close proximity to you for a while. Breathing slow and deep will make them (and you) feel calm and in control.
9. Listen intently
Focus your total attention on the other person like a laser, listening intently and actively on what they’re saying. Make them the ‘only person in the room’.
10. Hold eye contact
Connect with others and build trust by making appropriate eye contact – not so long as to be aggressive but long enough to make a real connection.
11. Use a commandinflection
When your voice drops at the end of a sentence it sounds like a command – conveying authority. Avoid ‘uptalk', with your voice rising at the end.
12. Speak with confidence, certainty and conviction
People with gravitas have a strong but not necessarily loud voice that expresses conviction – which is a powerful blend of passion and confidence. Speak with absolute certainty that what you are saying is right.