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I was listening to a podcast with Margaret Atwood the other day, and was struck by her low voice… which kind of made me think about my MIL’s low voice. And how I often lower my voice unconsciously when I’m trying to feel more authoritative, or serious. It’s been far too long since we talked about executive presence, so let’s discuss… what do you do to feel more authoritative? What do you intentionally — and what do you do unintentionally? When you think of authoritative, powerful women you know, what traits of theirs make them seem more authoritative?
(Incidentally, here’s a fascinating New Yorker article about why we may associate lower voices with more authority — Congress limited bandwidth allotted for radio stations, and most broadcasters eventually limited their signals to a “voiceband” range that only accommodated low voices as “bare minimum amount of frequency information needed to adequately transmit speech.”)
For my $.02, here’s what I do to try to feel more authoritative…
- lowering my voice (yep)
- having planned speaking points (and thinking about them as bullet points) — if it’s a prepared speech having at least the first 3 minutes memorized and practiced
- having better posture (or arrange myself in the chair in what I think is an artful way)
- not fussing with my appearance, like tugging at clothes or moving my hair
- (I stink at it, but I do try to limit fillers such as “like” and “um” — and be comfortable with silence for whatever time I need to answer a question thoughtfully)
There’s been a lot written over the years about how a lot of these things are sexist and based on stereotyped notions of what men with executive presence look like… so I’m interested to know if you’re doing things differently.
(In terms of what traits are shared by the most authoritative, powerful people I know or have seen speak, I think it’s my last point – the comfort with silence to answer a question thoughtfully. But then that’s a luxury that isn’t always afforded to women if you’re in a meeting with people who will talk over you…)
Readers, what are your thoughts? What do you do to feel more authoritative — intentionally or unintentionally? What traits do you think make someone seem authoritative in general?
Stock photo via Deposit Photos / iakovenko123.