I am a big fan of health spas and have been to my fair share of them. Like any business or service, some are great and some miss the mark. So when I walked into the lovely Ocean Pearl Spa at the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort outside of San Diego, I sensed the experience would be one of the greats. I just didn’t know that the esthetician assigned to my time slot would have so much to teach professionals about communicating. A proud, pretty Jamaican woman with a cheek-to-cheek smile and enough energy to power a nuclear plant, she oozed enthusiasm that I wanted to bottle up and take home.
Yet too often, people are afraid to let their sensitive selves shine through at workplace meetings and presentations fearing they will be perceived as weak or lacking credibility, when in fact the opposite is true. Studies suggest today’s workplace is craving authenticity, honesty and personality which are seen as the key to recruitment, retention, satisfaction and productivity.
Employees who desire to climb the corporate ladder can learn from leaders who are compassionate, approachable, people-focused and not afraid to state what they believe. Here are some tips for getting there.
Speak up not out
Every time you speak up at a meeting, talk to your boss or address an audience, you make an impression. But there’s a difference between speaking up and speaking out. When you strive to be a regular contributor at the table without talking too much, getting angry or interrupting too often, you provide value. To prepare, jot down two or three points you want to deliver in advance and look for opportunities to speak up.
State your beliefs
Articulate your ideas even if others don’t agree and do so without apologizing or making excuses for your opinions. Point to facts and solution-oriented examples that support what you’re saying to help naysayers and others see your point of view.
Pace and pause
It’s not necessary to fill the silence. By pausing and giving listeners a moment to digest what you’ve said, you will position yourself as thoughtful, comfortable and more confident in your delivery.
Use strong words
Hesitant and self-deprecating language can make you appear unsure of yourself. Replace disclaimers and tentative phrases such as “It seems I get results” or “I hope to have the plan next week,” “I think,” and “I guess” with more definite language such as “I firmly believe,” “the facts are as follows,” “I’m committed,” and “I would like the plans on my desk Monday.”
If you want something, ask for it
When Carnegie Mellon University economics professor Linda C. Babcock explored findings on gender and salary, she found that men asked for salary increases at eight times the rate of women. If you want something, don’t bury the lead. State what you want right up front and then back up your request with reasons.
When I was a news anchor for a television station in Milwaukee, I had a boss who wouldn’t permit me to read the stock report because he claimed male readers were more credible when it came to delivering business news. I was fuming, but I didn’t yell or walk away. I did stand tall, purposely moving into his space, looking him directly in the eye and raising my voice just a tad to sound more authoritative when I cited examples of multiple female newscasters who were delivering business news on TV.
I didn’t win the argument but from that point forward, he saw me as a self-confident employee who wasn’t afraid to speak up for what I believed.