How to Speak with Authority Without Seeming Arrogant
No one ever wants to be pushed around, whether at work or in life generally. We want to be able to show off the best version of us and be seen to speak with authority, without becoming arrogant or egotistical. We want to be treated with the respect we deserve, but without being seen as dislikeable. So how can we give off a strong but positive image of ourselves in whatever we are doing?
Confidence is crucial if you want to speak with authority. That doesn’t mean that being a naturally shy or quiet person is a bad thing, just that you want to be able to communicate your skills and abilities in a succinct way that avoids confusion. Obviously, building up confidence takes time and there is no easy shortcut; it’s a mind-set you have to get yourself into. However, there are some simple things you can do to help yourself come across as a more assertive person. Check before you enter into a meeting or conversation in which you have a specific goal that your body language is outward-looking and your posture is upright. This instantly makes you seem subconsciously more confident and open to those you are addressing. Equally, you can try being the one to offer your hand up for a handshake and making sure you are having a good amount of eye-contact with whoever you are speaking to.
Another thing to try is to be as direct as possible. It is nice to build up a working relationship with colleagues, and making small talk about their day, how they are feeling and their family is a good way of befriending those you work with, but when you are asking them for something or telling them what you want done, be as straight as possible. That way you seem to-the-point and clear in your decisions, as well as avoiding possible confusion over what you want done.
What is worth remembering is to not be negative in whatever you say. That is not to say that we should all go round only saying yes, but those around you can grow tired and demotivated by constant discouragement. When you are dealing with people – especially when you are asking something of them – try to be as positive as possible. Avoid saying phrases like ‘No’ or ‘That’s wrong’, and instead try saying things like ‘This can be improved’ and ‘We can do that better’. Equally, as well as being open in your manner, you need to be positive in your approach to a problem, otherwise you won’t be approached by others for help. When someone asks you a question, avoid saying ‘I don’t know’; instead, say ‘I’ll find out’. You want to give the sense that you have a constructive presence rather than an overbearing and dispiriting one.
If you are making a presentation, or trying to sell something to a client, contractor or prospective employer, that confidence and authority in yourself will be naturally benefited by knowing exactly what you are talking about, and being well-prepared and knowledgeable in the area in advance. The easiest way to lose authority is if there is some aspect of what you are talking about that you do not know and have no way of finding out, especially when questioned. Someone who acts confidently but does not have the expertise to match will look arrogant and over-confident. Make sure you are well acquainted with what it is that you are talking about, and have worked up quickly accessible notes that you can refer to in important meetings. Research well in advance, make concise but helpful summaries and don’t be put off by tough questions.
So, a mixture of confidence, assertive actions, directness and positivity can enable you to speak with authority without straying into being vain and arrogant, making you not only a more productive person, but a more effective and likeable networker.