We’ve talked before about the potency of body language. Expansive gestures and postures make us feel more powerful, and in turn we convey that sense of confidence to others. It’s a well-established principle in psychology that the mind follows the body’s cues.
In 2008 Dr. Deborah Gruenfeld, a social psychologist at Stanford, teamed up with a theatre instructor to offer a class at their business school called Acting with Power. The idea was to go beyond purely academic learning so students could engage their whole beings in the process of influencing others.
Actors, she observed, make their audience believe simply by…well, acting the part. So why can’t we, in our ordinary day-to-day roles, embody and project the person we want to be by simply playing the part?
Her thesis: We are who we pretend we are — at least to an extent.
Acting “presidential” wouldn’t make Kevin Kline (or Michael Douglas, Martin Sheen, Harrison Ford, et al) a wise or effective leader, but it would certainly help them to feel that way and in turn project that persona to the audience. We can use the same principal to convey confidence and authority in the business of selling.
Be the Host – Not the Guest
As we’ve mentioned before, selling is a two-way channel of communication, and power over others by no means determines success. That said, if we’re projecting uncertainty or timidity, we’re not likely to engender confidence and trust.
To establish confidence and authority with others, we first have to assume it ourselves. That’s not always easy when we’re feeling anxious or nervous in social and business situations, but there’s a pithy dictum we can use to remind ourselves to go beyond the insecurities that hold us back: “Be the host – not the guest.”
By simply adopting this attitude we assume that this phone call is our call, this platform is our platform, and this particular time and place are ours as well.
From that vantage point we act as if the audience, from one sales prospect to an auditorium full of people, are our guests. And we can relate to our guests with dignity, respect and appreciation.
Thinking of ourselves as a host or protector, as Gruenfeld advises, we won’t have any desire to dominate or control the audience – be it one person or many. Since it’s our time and space, we don’t have to feel rushed or pressured. We’re confident that our words are potent and meaningful, so we can speak succinctly and let our speech flow easily with great affect.
If we have any concerns about being too pushy or too reticent we can let them disappear behind our innate, natural confidence and grace. When we’re not distracted by worrying about how we appear to others we can express ourselves with calm and warmth, and not be compromised by self-conscious hesitations.
“Everything we need is already in us. It’s just a question of giving yourself permission to find it and use it.” ~ Professor Deborah Gruenfeld