In business and personal relationships it’s not necessarily the loudest or the most confident person in the room who is the most influential. If you find yourself worrying about not having the “right personality” to stand up in front of people to present your solutions or ideas, Julie Masters explains how to use gravity instead to pull your audience in.
A few months ago, I was on a panel about influence. Somebody from a very respected brand was asked what the key to influence was. His answer went something like, ‘I think there needs to be at least an element of aggression; I think you need to be forthright, aggressive, assertive even.’ I sat there and I thought, no, no. If that myth doesn’t get busted soon, the world is going to become a very scary place.
Because, for me, the key to personal influence is gravity. It’s the exact opposite of aggression. Gravity is a stillness and a certainty about your presence, the same as that natural phenomenon by which all things with a ‘mass’ are brought toward one another; why we as humans don’t fall off the face of the earth. Gravity pulls us in.
Gravity feels very different to confidence. Confidence is an upward motion. It’s a rush of energy and a rush of adrenaline. Confidence is something that you earn, that you get when you show up over and over again. Gravity feels very different. It’s a grounding down.
If you watch flamenco dancers, when they take to the stage there’s a thing called ‘duende’ that arrives before the dance begins. By definition, duende means a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity. The audience know when the duende arrives because you see the performers ground down and become still. Something just happens. And at that moment they become utterly compelling; but it’s all in silence.
Often the most powerful person in the room and the person who has the most influence is the quietest.
It’s the one who listens most actively. It’s the one where you trust their intention. It’s the one who can sit with you in space and come up with a great solution in collaboration with you. And that is the complete opposite of aggression.
Does aggression or being loud ever work as a strategy for influence? If we talk about aggression as a volume strategy, it can work in the short term. You can out-shout somebody. You can out-bold them, you can outsize them. I would say it works OK for gorillas, but not so much for humans. In the long term it’s gravity that will work for you in most situations.
There are three keys to gravity: firstly, being clear in your intent and speaking your intent, secondly listening, and thirdly being able to collaborate.
All too often, I watch people not do what they need to do, or say what they need to say, or stand up and own their space because of fear, or because they’re waiting to feel confident. I’ve worked with some of the most powerful thought leaders in the world; I can promise you, none of them felt confident in the beginning. None of them even feel confident probably now, but they’re certain about their experience and being open to change when a new experience or when feedback comes along.
Don’t wait to feel confident; if you are someone who shows up, who is an expert in what you do, who has years of experience, then you have something to offer – but you need to believe that.
Take a breath, listen, don’t be afraid to be still, let new ideas come to you; then collaborate with others to let them shine. Allow the pull of your gravity to do the work – and watch your personal ‘attractorship’ grow!