- MOVE SLOW AND LITTLE
Powerful people do not run. They move slow and little. They don’t run because they don’t have to run, not for anybody. Their nervous system is calm, their gestures are deliberate and they move to the beat of their own drum. They are their own person.
People who are insecure are overly concerned with the opinions of others. They run for their superiors – and they run fast. Their nervous system is in overdrive as they’re acutely sensitive to pressure and often feel overwhelmed. It’s difficult for such people to think strategically and effectively. Their thoughts race far too quickly.
The Answer: Create a buffer between yourself and others. This could be a little physical distance to enable you to breathe and definitely psychological distance. In other words, do not take on the pressure that others try to project onto you. Stay calm no matter what someone says or does. To do this successfully, you must breathe deep and slow, and consciously decelerate your nervous system. The calmer you feel, the less you will fidget and the stiller you will become in spite of the heat. With stillness comes power and the higher up the totem pole you will go.
- PREGNANT PAUSES
Powerful people take their time to think before they speak. They gain clarity by holding the moment and making people wait for what they will say next. And when they finally do speak, they get to the point fast. They have no need to mince their words or waffle around an issue. They go straight for the elephant in the room as they know this is the only way to get things done.
Less powerful types tend to talk fast and in vague terms. They often don’t pause and instead blurt out the first sentence that comes to mind. And then they keep going. Yet, the more we waffle, the less secure we seem. Especially if we soak our language with business cliché. Jargon and clichés can make you sound annoying at best, or confusing and uncreative at worst.
The Answer: Discipline yourself to pause before you speak. It will feel uncomfortable and that’s good! Holding the tension isn’t meant to feel pleasant. But, if you have the mettle to ride that wave, you’ll raise your power and project confidence no matter how you feel inside. Use pregnant pauses to raise the tension and emphasise the gravity of your point. And when you speak, be clear and direct. Because the less you say, the harder you hit.
- LOWER YOUR VOICE
Powerful people keep their tone low, calm and collected. They speak with poise, carefully select their words and never rush. They know that their message matters. The tone of their voice itself communicates calm and stability, and we are naturally inclined to trust people who speak in this way. They sound like leaders in control.
If you raise your pitch too high and rush your words, you will come across frantic and weak. Few will take you seriously because such behaviour reveals a person out of their depth.
The Answer: Breathe deeply and with the diaphragm before you utter a word. As you calm the nervous system, you naturally slow down the pace of your speech and give your listeners the opportunity to digest your message. And the more you practice deep breathing, the more your throat (and whole body) relaxes over time thus lowering your tone. Your words take on greater importance and you project the authority you crave.
- LISTEN MORE THAN YOU SPEAK
Powerful people listen first, then talk. They rarely respond without gathering vital data first. When in a business negotiation, a powerful person will listen very carefully to what others say (and don’t say) before they decide to speak. They will first seek to understand what others want and also fear. And every conversation is considered strategic because serious business is strategic.
The less powerful don’t respond strategically, they simply react. They either freeze, speak in a rushed monotone or talk rather plentifully, assuming everyone else is as impressed with their voice as they are. And, as they give themselves away, they fail to read the temperature in the room. They can’t detect what others may be feeling as they’re too busy obsessing over their own performance. It’s a common response born from a hyper-active nervous system that hasn’t yet been brought under control.
The Answer: Make sure you listen before you say a word. Scope the lay of the land and figure out your strategy having assessed the characters in the room. It’s important to ask clear questions to glean this information – and then let others talk. As they talk, pay close attention to their behaviour. Notice what they say, how they say it and how they are being, and then try to decipher what’s driving them. And be sure to envision the numerous iterations of what could happen next so that you can mentally brace yourself for the challenge ahead. All this will grow your powers of perception and get you thinking at a much higher level than most – the leadership level.
- TAKE NOTHING PERSONALLY
Powerful people are non-reactive under pressure. No matter what someone else says or does, they refuse to give their power away. Instead, they put their emotions to one side to immunise themselves from being baited by antagonists. They can then silently assess the situation and choose the strategic response that tips the scales of dominance.
Non-reactivity is a tough skill to develop. Only a few are willing to put in the work to achieve this state, which explains why there are more followers than leaders in the workplace. Most people take things very personally and are highly reactive, especially given the current culture of prioritising hurt feelings over rational analysis. But never forget that it’s easy to provoke a highly-reactive person. Their predictability renders them exploitable.
The Answer: Leave your emotions out of it and save for later when you can process privately or with a trusted advisor. When public-facing, apply a cooler analysis of situations and interactions. And take nothing – absolutely nothing – personally. It helps to remember your long-term goals and how important they are to you. Any time you lose your cool, you move further away from these goals. Your reactivity lowers your credibility. Yet, if you can hold your dignity in the heat of the moment, you will develop the self-respect that helps you win the game long-term.
It is this elixir of strategic thinking and emotional detachment coupled with the ambition to ascend that will provide you with the potency and power needed for success.
In the corporate battleground, if you can distinguish yourself as a person who is not just at the controls, but in control of your reactions, you will rise. And not just up the business ladder, but also above the storm of your own emotions raging within.
And that is true power.