Hello SOTGC community,
A few months ago I volunteered to represent my employer at a local job fair. I had the opportunity to meet some amazing professionals who were eager to learn more about the career opportunities we have to offer.
As I was chatting it up with the various job seekers I was struck by the overwhelming number of smart, talented, successful women who demonstrated behaviors that conveyed an overall lack of confidence. I started to wonder, how often to I inadvertently undermine my professional presence with these same limiting behaviors?
What is Professional Presence?
Defining professional presence is a little like nailing JELL-O to a tree. You just know it when you see it.
Author and executive coach, Susan Bixler, wrote the book on the subject – literally. In her best-seller, Professional Presence, she describes it as a dynamic blend of poise, self-confidence, control, and style that empowers us to be able to command respect in any situation. I could use a little more of that, how about you?
How to Boost Your Professional Presence
I started to pay more attention to my words and actions. I also enlisted the help of a few trusted colleagues, asking them to point out specific instances where I could have exuded more confidence, influence, and authority at work. With their help, I identified three communication habits I’m actively working to overcome in order to command a more professional presence.
Hedging: One woman walked up to our job fair booth and tentatively asked, “So, um, if you don’t mind me asking, what positions are you hiring for?” Wuht? Why would we mind if you ask about our openings? That’s the whole reason we’re here, for goodness sakes.
A verbal hedge is a word or phrase that makes a statement sound less assertive or impactful. Other examples include:
- Don’t take this the wrong way, but…
- Well, it seems to me as if…
- I was just thinking that maybe we should…
To be perfectly honest (my verbal hedge of choice), qualifiers like this convey uncertainty or an inability to be direct.
Uptalk: Also known as Valley Girl Speak, uptalk is that hesitant, upward inflection at the end statement that makes it sound like a question. This one time, at band camp…
Uptalk is more than just annoying; it can negatively impact your career. A recent survey of 700 male and female bosses revealed that:
- 85% believe uptalk is a clear indicator of a person’s insecurity or emotional weakness
- 57% believe uptalk has the potential to damage a person’s professional credibility by revealing an inability or reluctance to speak their mind
- 44% admitted they would mark down an applicant by as much as a third based purely on the candidate’s irritating speech
So? Like, we should totally avoid uptalk? Especially if we want to be respected and taken seriously at work? For sure.
Tag questions: Turns out, there really IS such a thing as a stupid question.
A tag question is a question tagged on to the end of a statement that encourages the listener to respond with agreement.
That’s a good solution, don’t you think?
The sales projections were correct, weren’t they?
That’s not right, is it?
This type of communication sends one of two messages:
- I’m a bully and you will agree with me, or,
- I’m insecure and need validation.
Either way, not exactly an effective way to build my professional presence…is it?
Here’s the thing; communication is one of my key strengths. I pride myself on my ability to connect with all kinds of people through my public speaking and writing, weaving words together to keep listeners engaged or inspire them to act. I also know that a strength ignored becomes a weakness. So, I will continue to look for ways to develop my skills, to hone my craft. I hope you join me on this empowering journey of self-discovery and growth.