The aura of gravitas will generate a space around you. You can do a lot to create that. When you are with people imagine your bubble of personal space expanding to twice, three times, ten times the volume of your normal space. As you visualise this it will start to change the subtle cues of your body language and people will respect a greater distance. Then, when you choose to draw people in, they will feel a sense of occasion.
Gravitas means not rushing, whether it is in your movement or your speech. A steady, deliberate pace conveys total confidence and, when speaking, it increases your control of your speech and the relaxation of your vocal cords, allowing your voice to stay at the bottom end of its tonal register. Deeper tones convey authority. Keep the volume down too, to make people strain to catch your important ideas and to avoid over-stretching your voice. This will all help people value the wisdom of what you say.
Big movements convey charisma, big words convey intellect, big speeches convey status. Small movements convey economy, small words convey understanding, small speeches convey deep insight. Wise people do and say little, but what they do and what they say conveys much.
Stillness is a special quality in our frenetic world. Cultivate the ability to be still to make a real contrast with the busy-busy background, and create a powerful impression of weight (the Latin word gravitas means just that).
Smart people dive in with their ideas to ensure that they are heard. Wiser souls wait, observe, then assess and summarise what they have heard, adding their evaluation and insight.
The ultimate in slowing your speech, the linguistic equivalent of still; silence is something few can master. Used at the right time, it can be a devastating contribution to your argument. How much smaller can your contribution be?
If you don’t have an insight or contribution to make, remember that smart people will always find something smart to say. But Ludwig Wittgenstein was wise when he said: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Don’t be afraid to not have an opinion or an answer: no insight is better than shallow insight.
Select the timing of your contribution with care. Don’t rush, jump in, or cut someone off. Instead, wait for silence before you speak, so there is only one thing for your audience to listen to.
When you speak to most people you quickly become aware that they have other things on their mind. With some people though, you feel as if there is nothing else in the world for them but you. These people have both charisma and gravitas. Practice paying 100% attention to the person who is speaking. The greater benefit is in more than just the impression you give, but the deeper understanding you gain, of their concerns.
You won’t always know the answers nor have the insight to transform a situation. But what you can always do is put forward a clear process that will help to gather facts, clarify issues, and move to a decision. Wisdom is knowing when you don’t know enough and having a way to move onward regardless.
Who sets the tone? Whose demeanour matters? If it’s you, then you really do have gravitas.