No matter how capable you are, the way that others perceive you and your value will largely be determined by how you present yourself. Oftentimes we unknowingly undermine our value by the way that we speak, the words we use and our body language. The first step to remedying this is to bring awareness to your current habits. Are you falling into any of these common traps for women leaders?
1. Softening statements by inserting words like “kind of”, “maybe”, “just”, or “actually.”
2. Saying “sorry” for things that aren’t your fault or that don’t warrant an apology.
3. Minimizing your ideas by prefacing them with statements like, “I haven’t researched this much, but…” or “You probably already thought of this but…”
4. Making statements sound like questions by raising the pitch of your voice at the end of the sentence.
5. Beginning statements with “I think…” or “I feel…”
Body Language Traps
Research shows that 93% of communication is nonverbal, conveyed through our body language and tone of voice.
This means that we need to be intentional about not only what we say, but also how we say it.
1. When standing, check your posture. Bring your shoulders back and hold your head high. Imagine the top of your head being pulled up to the sky, elongating your spine.
2. When sitting, take up space. If you’ve been invited to the table, you belong there. Don’t wrap yourself in a ball with hunched shoulders, crossed arms and legs. Put both feet on the floor and open your chest. This allows your breath to flow more fully and your voice to sound more confident.
3. When meeting someone, look them directly in the eye and firmly shake their hand. This conveys self-assurance.
4. Avoid fidgety behaviors like tapping your foot, twirling your hair, playing with jewelry, or rocking back and forth.
5. Watch the headnod. Women have a tendency to nod when they want to demonstrate they are listening or convey understanding and empathy. While this can show friendliness, it does not communicate authority and power. Be sure to nod only when you really agree with someone, not by default.
Often we don’t realize we’re engaging in these minimizing behaviors, so ask a colleague to give you honest feedback on how you can sharpen your presence. Small changes have big impacts, so determine at least one way that you can sharpen your communication and enhance your presence as a woman leader.