In High Performing Women Part 1, we learned about perception vs reality in communication. We touched upon posture, stance, and unique challenges faced by women. We covered what it takes to begin improving your communication style. In Part 2 we added to your repertoire the human face and the power of its influence. We also noted that The High Performing Woman is self-aware, curious about others and leads with openness, authenticity and command. In Part 3 we will look specifically at authenticity – both in your expression and in reading the expressions of others.
On October 3 I had the privilege to present at The 2017 Pennsylvania Conference for Women in Philadelphia. With Michelle Obama as keynote and 14,000 women in attendance, the force of change was in the air. I co-presented a session on “Working with Difficult People – Navigating Personalities for Career Success” Being the body language expert, I was asked, “Can nonverbal communication be used to manipulate others?” Here was my answer:
‘We know body language is a powerful mode of communication where the body does the talking. If you look online or go looking for books, you will see a wild variety on this topic. For example, “How to get people to instantly like you”. Thousands of resources are out there on what gestures mean, and how to read and use them. Some are beneficial.
‘Any resource on manipulation, however, implies tricking others into action. If you choose manipulation or coersion, you are forfeiting your authenticity and acting the part. At this point you are role-playing rather than being authentic. It becomes robotic, planned and not very relatable to each unique listener you encounter. If your words and actions become obviously incongruent, and they most likely will, game over.
‘As women taking steps upward, I would suggest we release the word and the need for manipulation and rather embrace the words persuasion and influence. Your intention should guide the way. The most important question to ask yourself is WHAT IS MY INTENT?
Finally, understanding and observing the other – how they present arguments, how they form their opinions and how they take in your facts – will be a far more effective strategy for successful communication. You can be authentic, aware of your words, your body language and that of the other in order to create genuine interactions and connections. The net benefit of these interactions – where you want buy-in or conversion to your point of view – will be more likely the more authentic and aware you are.
Once I was thinking of leaving a job I held for several years. My boss knew it, but he didn’t ever speak to me directly about it. His body language, though, was loud and clear! He sat at a desk near mine and his body was frozen, eyes cast downward and facing away whenever I entered the space. It seemed to me, in MY perception, he was angry I was leaving and wanted me to stay, but I saw his approach as manipulative. It turned me off completely. I chose to ignore it and I left anyway. Who knows what the outcome would have been if he had authentically shared himself with me.
So, High Performing Woman: Stand Tall, Perceive Yourself with Accuracy, Let Your Face Come Alive, and Keep Your Intentions in Check. The Force of Change is in the Air!
Alice Rutkowski leads SAGIN’s executive development and communications practice. She has worked with various executives and public officials on skills of communications, leadership, presentations and influence. You can contact Alice directly at firstname.lastname@example.org SAGIN is a professional services firm with practices in management consulting, recruiting and development, IT services and risk management.