Is your authority disappearing when they meet you?

When you are talking to others face to face you aren’t just listening to their words. How they are saying it … tone of voice & volume for example, affect what you hear. As does what they look like when they speak … facial expressions, hand gestures and so on.

Your body language can change the way that others hear what you are saying and recently I saw this first hand.

I was talking to a supplier over the phone and was impressed by her breadth of knowledge and clarity of thought. She knew what she needed from me and was able to tell me very clearly and concisely. She had an air of authority in her vocal tone that made me feel confident that the job would get done to time and in budget.

We arranged to meet and I was looking forward to dealing with her. The meeting was fine and she left promising to come back to me with a full project plan; however, I left wondering if I was actually talking to someone with the authority to deliver what I needed.

It took me a little while to work out why this was the case. She had said all the right things yet she seemed to have less credibility face to face than over the phone … and I think it was her overuse of listening cues.

Listening cues include giving eye contact and smiling but the ones she was overusing were

  • nodding as she listened and
  • tilting the head to one side.

Now don’t get me wrong these cues are important in conversation but when overused they can make you seem less authoritative and too keen to please. Equally when under used they can make you appear arrogant and dismissive.

If you are concerned that you don’t have the impact or authority that you want, it is worth considering what cues you use to show the other person you are listening to them and whether you use them too much or not enough.

If you don’t know then ask a friend or colleague for an honest opinion. If you don’t know anyone you can ask then book a 1-1 session with me to gain an honest and objective perspective.


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