What’s holding you back from being a powerful communicator? Evolving into a woman that people listen to and take seriously requires a commitment to skill building, risk taking, and relationship building, according to Susan A. Mason, principal of Vital Visions Consultants and a member of AMA’s faculty.
It goes beyond working on your voice or body language, Mason said during the AMA webinar Women Leaders and Powerful Communication, which debuted in August and is now available on demand. As a powerful communicator, you present yourself as a leader. You exhibit inner and outer confidence so that people pay attention as you create shared meaning in your message, Mason said.
Becoming a leader with powerful communication skills
For women who wish to become better communicators, Mason offered these training tips:
Build your presentation skills. Dedicate time to practicing and improving your control over your facial expression, gestures, and body language. Watch for body language that doesn’t match what you’re saying, as it can be confusing and even cause distrust.
Work on phrasing and structure. Control your pitch, your volume, and your pacing. Avoid:
- Confusing disclaimers: “Of course, I don’t know much about this process, but I think…”
- Tags that make you sound unsure: “We should do this, don’t you think?”
- Softening qualifiers: “maybe,” “somewhat,” “in my opinion,” or “it seems to me”
Increase your confidence. As you improve on these skills, it’s natural that your confidence will build, Mason pointed out. But increasing your confidence is also a skill built on practice. “We can retrain our brain to think with confidence, to think positively,” Mason said.
Women often hold themselves hostage through negative self-talk. “You can begin right now, today, to change up that self-talk,” she said. For instance, the thought, “I shouldn’t get too loud. That would be calling attention to myself and seem aggressive,” can be changed to, “I will speak with authority and confidence,” Mason said.
Take risks. By facing challenges and both failing and succeeding, we develop a true confidence built on competence, she said. If you tend to sit back in meetings, start speaking up. Be the first person to raise your hand. Don’t be silenced by worries that if you argue a point, people won’t like you.
Reflect aggressive behavior objectively. If someone says, “This is a dumb idea”—you say, “This is my idea on how we can move forward.”
Say what you need to say clearly, get to the point, and stop talking. Don’t repeat—say it well and people will pay attention, she said.
Develop and use strategic networks. Speaking up in meetings becomes easier if you get there early, make small talk, and get to know people. Having a supportive network around you will make it easier for you to express yourself powerfully, Mason said. Select a wide range of people with diverse viewpoints. Think about how you can reach your network—modify your communication in ways that are going to create shared meaning among a diverse group.
“Powerful communication is going to call on you to take some reasonable risks,” Mason said. It doesn’t just happen; you have to really work at it. “Know what’s holding you back and one by one address those opportunities to step up and get heard,” she said.
AMA’s Women’s Leadership Center offers web training and in-person events designed to build women’s skills, support network, and influence. Check out the fall schedule and join us!