How can professional women achieve a more commanding presence without being considered overly aggressive or bitchy? How can professional women express their opinions and be taken seriously in the workplace, even male-dominated environments?
One of the ways is by learning how to control and leverage your body language and vocal power when communicating with others. Greater mastery of verbal and non-verbal communication is an essential skill for all professionals, women and men; yet few people really understand it or take the time to work on it.
“Our attitudes and emotions are continually revealed on our faces and we are completely unaware of it most of the time.” – Allan Pease, author of The Definitive Book of Body Language.
At the 2010 Business Women’s Forum in Hartford, CT, I presented a communications workshop entitled “Power Up Your Communication: Vocal Power and Body Language Intelligence for Women.” This program is designed to help professional women strengthen their competence, confidence and credibility by increasing their awareness, control and influence of how they use their voice, movement and gestures when communicating.
- Read the blog post about BWF luncheon keynote speaker Paula Abdul with her advice “Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable.”
Below is a video that I showed during the workshop from Forbes magazine and Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., business coach and author of “The Non-Verbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work” on the Top Ten Body Language Mistakes Women Leaders Make, such as too many head tilts, physically condensing, acting girlish and excessive smiling. Click on the black box to view this short video.
One of the top ten mistakes that Dr. Kinsey Gorman points out is when women use a delicate handshake. I couldn’t agree with her more. A delicate handshake, the finger tip grab or the princess handshake, as I like to call it, sends an immediate non-verbal signal of weakness when used in a work/professional setting.
Of course there are cultural differences and social exceptions (e.g., when you are shaking an elderly person’s hand, or the Queen of England). Study up if you are traveling abroad or attending a special event or situation. Ask for advice ahead of time as to what type of handshake or greeting is appropriate in that particular situation.
In my book, Networking Ahead for Business, I outline the three principles of a professional American-style business handshake:
- Complete: You want to make full contact, that is web-to-web, with the groove between your index finger and your thumb coming together without any gaps in that space.
- Equal: Make sure that both people’s palms are in vertical position. Neither party should attempt to dominate or be submissive, which is communicated unconsciously when one hand is underneath or on top of the other person’s palm. There should be no bending at the wrist. .
- Receptive: Apply the same pressure that you receive. You don’t want to hurt someone with too much pressure. “Bone crushers” and “vice grips” should be avoided at all times. At the other extreme, you don’t want to give them a wimpy grip. Hug the hand, by wrapping your fingers around their palm. The handshake should feel good to you both. It should never create physical pain or displeasure.
Watch this YouTube video on Handshake Do’s and Don’ts with Kathy McAfee.
Use Your Vocal Power
I’d like to introduce you to your vocal dashboard. It is a very cool and powerful instrument panel that gives you more control and more influence when you use your voice. We all have a vocal dashboard, but most of us set it and forget it, never adjusting the dials to leverage the power that our voices truly possess.
Rather than just talking, consider playing with the knobs on your vocal dashboard to power up your communication. Developing greater mastery over your voice is not just a skill reserved for singers, actors and professional speakers. It is for anyone who wants to be heard, has something to say and could use a little more influence in his or her life. That includes you.
Let’s examine the five basic dials on your vocal dashboard:
1. Tone of your voice (pitch)
2. Tempo of your voice (speed)
3. Timbre of your voice (quality)
4. Volume of your voice (loudness)
5. Mute (the powerful sound of silence)
Research from Professor Albert Mehrabian of UCLA suggests that 38% of the meaning of your communication in face to face communication situations is influenced by HOW you use your voice.
One tip that I like to give professionals is that if they can utilize the “low and slow” tone and tempo vocal combination when giving recommendations, you subtly increase your command and authority. Remember also to look them in the eye when you give your recommendations. Darting or downcast eye glances have a very negative effect on your personal power and influence.
“You make your living through your voice. Your mouth is not just your mind out loud.”- Arthur Samuel Joseph, author of Voice of a Leader: Vocal Awareness to Empower Your Communication in Business and Life
For more insights and exercises that you can do to strengthen your voice and body as communication tools, I suggest that you…
For more information about the workshop “Power Up Your Communication: Vocal Power and Body Language Intelligence for Professionals” please contact professional speaker Kathy McAfee at (860) 408-0033 or visit her web site: www.MotivatedSpeaker.com