Being respected is one thing, but commanding respect is another.
Some people just seem to command respect from the second they walk in the room. Research shows that we sometimes judge leaders not on how they perform, but on how they look.
This is even more significant when you consider that other people form an impression of you within seconds of meeting you and that is generally the impression they will take away with them.
1. Exude confidence through your body language.
Remember that it’s not how you feel that is important–it’s how the person watching you thinks you feel.
This is a common problem with body language: often your non-verbal signals don’t convey what you intended them to. You may be slouching because you’re tired, but others might read it as a sign of disinterest.
You may be more comfortable standing with your arms folded across your chest, but others will see you as resistant and unapproachable, and keeping your hands stiffly by your side or stuck in your pockets can give the impression that you’re insecure or hiding something – whether you are or not.
To show confident body language, you need to stand tall instead of slouching, look ahead of you or at the people you’re speaking to instead of the floor, and keep your hands relaxed and ready to gesture when appropriate.
Don’t fidget with your hair, clothes, or hands, or you’ll look either bored or insecure. Keep your body alert and active, giving yourself more presence.
2. Manage your facial expressions.
Have you ever been asked a difficult question in a group? Probably you wanted to come across as knowledgeable, confident, and likeable, but what if you clenched your jaw, raised your eyebrows or grimaced as you searched for the answer?
Or did you sigh, smile condescendingly, and shake your head? And what do you think the people around you made of that? So take care about how you react.
Keep your facial expression positive and confident, by smiling slightly, not looking down, and avoiding furrowing your brows or biting your lip.
When you speak, make sure that you look like you believe in what you’re saying instead of having an expression that says, “I cannot believe the stuff that’s coming out of my mouth.”
3. Don’t underestimate the power of touch.
We are programmed to feel closer to someone who has touched us. The person who touches also feels more connected. Firm touch is more effective than light touch, which can actually make someone less comfortable.
It’s a compelling force and even momentary touching can create a human bond. A touch on the forearm that lasts a mere 1/40 of a second can make the receiver not only feel better but also see the giver as being kinder and warmer.
Even with adults in business settings, a study on handshakes by the Income Centre for Trade Shows showed that people are twice as likely to remember you if you shake hands with them.
4. Match your body language to your words.
When your body language is out of sync with your words, people believe what they see. It is crucial to communicate congruently – that is, to align your body to support, instead of sabotage, an intended message.
Mixed signals have a negative effect on performance and make it almost impossible to build relationships of trust.
Whenever your non-verbal signals contradict your words, the people you are addressing — employees, customers, voters — become confused. And, if forced to choose, they will discount your words and believe what your body said.
For example, if someone is talking to an audience about how much he or she welcomes their input, but stands behind a lectern, or leans back away from the audience, or shoves their hands in their pockets, then the audience will believe the non-verbal signal that that person is not interested in the audience, and couldn’t care less about them!
5. Remember that you are never off camera.
As a leader, you are always communicating. People are unrelenting leader-watchers, and your “off-record” behaviour is being closely monitored. In the words of one savvy leader, “What I do in the hallway is more powerful than anything I say in front of an audience.”
You can’t give a forceful, commanding speech and then walk off the stage and start rebuking an employee or family member over the phone without losing respect.
If you say something to a few people and then are seen contradicting your own words shortly after, then how can you expect to have their respect?
6. Think fewer, slower, lower.
Have you ever wondered why men are more likely to be perceived as leaders than women?
They tend to use fewer, lower, and slower movements. In research, on average, women made 27 major movements when entering a room to a meeting, compared with only 12 for men.
Women who do make it to be leaders use fewer, slower movements, on a par with men. So if you want to command respect, slow down and don’t wave your hands about.