Wisdom is in the eyes and ears of the people around you, so to make the right impact with your insights. You need to be able to generate the gravitas that says “my insights are worth paying attention to”. Mike Clayton tells us ten ways to make a real impact with your ideas.
People who have gravitas seem to generate an aura of space around them. You can do a lot to create that for yourself. When you are with people, imagine your bubble of personal space expanding to twice, three times, ten times the volume of your normal space. As you visualise this it will start to change the subtle cues of your body language and people will respect a greater distance. Practice this as you enter a room or come onto a stage to speak.
Gravitas means not rushing, whether it is in your movement or your speech. A steady, deliberate pace conveys total confidence. When you slow down your speaking pace, it increases your control of your speech and the relaxation of your vocal cords, allowing your voice to stay at the bottom end of its register. Deeper tones convey authority. Keep the volume down too, to make people strain to catch your important ideas and to avoid over-stretching your voice. If you have gravitas, you do not need to shout. Incorporating more pauses into your speech will also give you more time to choose your words with care.
Big movements convey charisma, big words convey intellect, big speeches convey status. Small movements convey economy, small words convey understanding, small speeches convey deep insight. Wise people do and say little, but what they do and what they say conveys much. Western culture has come to value charisma as the source of inspiration, but quiet confidence manages to whisper very loudly indeed, when it accompanies sound thinking.
Stillness is a special quality in our frenetic world. Cultivate the ability to be still. This will make a real contrast with the busy background, and create a powerful impression of weight – the Latin word gravitas means just that. Practice sitting and standing still, curbing your desire to fidget and scratch. Allow your whole body to turn towards the person who is speaking and hold your attention on them without letting your eyes or mind wander to other things in the room. This creates a magical sense of presence.
Smart people dive in with their ideas to ensure that they are heard. Wiser souls wait, observe, then assess and summarise what they have heard, adding their evaluation and insight. The ability to summarise a lot of complex information into a short, easy to understand, but accurate synopsis is a great talent and one to learn.
The ultimate in slowing your speech, the linguistic equivalent of still, silence is something few can master. Used at the right time, it can be a devastating contribution to your argument. How much smaller can your contribution be? The person who is most comfortable with silence will often dominate a conversation.
Select the timing of your contribution with care. Don’t rush, jump in, or cut someone off. Instead, wait for silence before you speak, so there is only one thing for your audience to listen to. If you contribute early, you signal how smart you are: if you wait, and weigh up all of the arguments, that gives you gravitas.
When you speak to most people, you quickly become aware that they have other things on their mind. With some people though, you feel as if there is nothing else in the world for them but you. These people have both charisma and gravitas. Practice paying 100 per cent attention to the person who is speaking. When you do this, you will be amazed at how much you hear.
You won’t always know the answers nor have the insight to transform a situation. But what you can always do is put forward a process that will help to gather facts, clarify issues and move to a decision. Wisdom is knowing when you don’t know enough and having a way to move onward regardless. In this complicated and uncertain world, people always defer to someone who knows how to move forward and what the next step is, even if they do not have the answer. Indeed, if people adopt your process, they will assume that you knew all along the answer they find.
Who sets the tone? Whose demeanour matters? If it’s you, then you really do have gravitas. Set the tone by paying attention, being calm and still, and focusing on summarising the information and suggesting the process to get the answer everyone wants.