Some people seem to find catching the attention of others effortless, be it in a job interview, presentation or a meeting.
What is it they’ve got that other people haven’t?
What are the qualities that make some people more trustworthy, authoritative and persuasive?
The good news is that these qualities can be learnt…read on if you’re interested in getting other’s attention (without shouting or doing the Shimmy Shake).
Let’s imagine Eugene needs to stand in front of his business partners and persuade them to pool resources on a new venture. He needs to appear more authoritative, trustworthy and persuasive so what qualities do you think are vital?
According to work conducted at the University of Lausanne. lead by Professor John Antonakis, there are a set of twelve communication habits that Eugene would need to adopt.
When Antonakis was conducting the study of what would give people like Eugene that extra ‘zing’, he was actually looking at ‘charisma’.
The Latin root of ‘charisma’, ‘charis’ means ‘favour’ and the whole word therefore translates as to ‘exhort favour’. In other words, ‘being influential’. Not every leader or manager needs to be – or can be – ‘charismatic’ with its ‘wow the room’ implication but to be engaging is vital.
Eight of the techniques of engaging others, are verbal:
- using metaphors;
- easy-to-remember three-part lists;
- telling stories;
- drawing vivid contrasts;
- asking rhetorical questions;
- expressing moral conviction;
- reflecting an audience’s sentiments;
- and setting high but achievable goals.
The rest are non-verbal: raising and lowering your voice, letting your feelings show in face and hand gestures to reinforce what you say.
All these skills are based on Aristotle’s theory of rhetoric that can be broken down thus:
- Ethos – establishing your credentials and building rapport;
This could be done during a presentation, by Eugene sharing his experience through anecdotes, for example, and reflecting the audience’s concerns and language. Credibility may be established beforehand through reputation. Eugene may have a harder job if his audience think he had his hand in the pension fund, in which case, establishing credentials through colourful stories may be as productive as skiing uphill in slippers.
- Logos – persuading through logic
By showing cause and effect, before and after, theory next to experience, Eugene will be using logic to influence.
- Pathos – persuasion with emotion
Try talking about something your are looking forward to in a flat, unmodulated voice with no movement. Then do this with gesture to underline points your emphasise with vocal colouring. That is the addition of ‘pathos’. Do be aware of cultural variations, though. For example, more open, expressive movement would be expected in southern Europe than Northern Europe.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Professor from Harvard in her blog ‘Why you need Charisma’, says that it’s how well you listen as opposed to being heard, that will make you influential. For her, ‘charisma’ is the quality of silence as well as speech.
According to Professor Kanter, active listening is vital: the questions you ask to seek understanding, reflecting back key phrases, steering a conversation through non-verbals.
Whether in a presentation or the Q and A afterwards both the verbal and non-verbal engagement will be vital. In meetings, pitches, and interviews getting the balance between active listening and speaking in an engaging way will mean that you have presence. Both Professors Antonakis and Kanter are spot on.