Do your friends and colleagues interrupt you? When you make a suggestion at work is it ignored; but later someone says the same thing, and the boss thinks it's a great idea. Do you sometimes feel you are invisible and not getting the attention and respect you deserve? All of us feel like this at one time or another. Relax – here are easy steps you can take to ensure that you are always Seen and Heard!
Sometimes all you have to do is pay attention to your nonverbal cues. Nonverbal cues include posture, vocal quality, eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, and appearance. Do you know what your body language is saying about you?
• Posture. Your posture, or how you carry yourself, is an immediate signal to others about your mood and how you feel. If your shoulders are rounded and you walk with your head down, you are telling others that you lack confidence and assertiveness. If you want to be Seen, throw your shoulders back, take long confident strides when you walk, and hold your head up. If posture is a big problem for you, practice the model’s old trick of walking while balancing a book on top of your head. This exercise helps you walk with your spine in proper alignment, your shoulders back and your head upright. Proper posture tells the world you are confident, secure, and ready to face the day!
• Vocal Quality. Do your colleagues always ask you to speak up because they can’t hear you? Your voice, like your posture, tells people a great deal about you. If your voice is low and muffled, or you repeatedly use fillers such as “ah,” “um,” “like,” and “I mean,” you sound tentative, lackluster and dull. Or perhaps you have a loud, booming voice that overpowers a room. A tape recorder can be your best friend. Record yourself reading a passage, or ask your friends if you can tape a conversation with them. Then replay the tape and listen objectively. Ask your friends for feedback. If you want to be Heard – Speak up, articulate, get rid of the fillers. Remember! You have something important to say.
• Watch your Language! If you want to be taken seriously in your professional world, drop the slang and “sloppy speak” you use with friends and peers. Be careful not to fill your conversation with fillers such as -- ah, um, like, I mean. Instead, expand your vocabulary and try to learn a new word everyday. Use the new word in your daily conversations. You will impress the boss with your new command of language. And don’t be surprised if your friends are impressed with your new way of speaking. An expanded vocabulary can send your confidence soaring with each new word you learn -- and use!
• Eye contact. When you are talking with your colleague make eye contact with her and pay attention to what she is saying. If your eyes are downcast, or you are searching the room to see if there is someone with whom you would rather be talking, you are sending negative messages to your co-worker. Your lack of eye contact says you are not interested in what she has to say. You don’t have to stare, that is equally as offensive, but make appropriate eye contact while conversing with others.
• Smile! Many people in a business situation are afraid to smile. They think it makes them look weak or unprofessional. However, there is no better icebreaker at a conference or professional gathering than a friendly smile. You feel better when you smile and a smile puts those around you at ease. They are more apt to speak to you and smile back. A friendly smile increases your opportunity to be Seen and Heard!
• Gestures. Your gestures should always be deliberate – purposeful. Tentative body movements give the impression of being timid and lacking confidence. Gestures are made with your hands and arms – waving, clapping, and pointing. Beware of the “parental point!” Pointing directly at someone when talking with them resembles parental chastising and usually results in a negative exchange. Exaggerated, wide arm movements can imply a controlling image. While your arms held too closely to the body or clasped over your chest can send the message that you are defensive and remote. Always strive to have relaxed and use appropriate gestures.
• Neatness Counts. First impressions are lasting impressions. If you want to be Seen and Heard, make your appearance count. You don’t have to wear designer clothes or the latest fashion. Instead, determine what your personal style is and then create a wardrobe that reflects your fashion preference and one that is appropriate for your work environment. Whether you prefer classic suits, or trendy sportswear, always make sure your clothes fit properly, they are clean and pressed, and appropriate for the occasion.
• Head to Shoe. If you want to be Seen and Heard -- every detail counts. It goes without saying that your hair should be clean, cut and styled properly. Next, people always notice your hands – so be sue they are worthy of being noticed. No hangnails, dirt under the nails, or chipped polish. Hands count for gentlemen too – take time to be sure they are scrubbed and neat.
Don’t overlook your shoes. Be sure they are clean and polished. No run-down heels, muddy soles, or scuffed toes. Nothing looks worse than a good-looking suit or skirt accompanied by a pair of shoes in need of a shine. The condition of your shoes, like your hands, tells people how you feel about yourself and how you manage the impression you want to make on others.
Practice these steps and your days of being invisible and overlooked will be behind you. Enjoy being Seen and Heard!
“There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.” - Dale Carnegie
Ellen Wagner has a Master of Arts in Public Communications from American University in Washington, DC. Ellen obtained a corporate etiquette and protocol certificate from The Protocol School of Washington and is a certified Associate of Color1, an international image consulting organization. To find out more about Ellen, visit Big Pond Communications.