So the other day, one of our readers asked us this question, How to get people to take me/my authority seriously. When I was 18 I was up for a small managerial promotion at the retail store I worked at. I had been there 5 months, consistently at or near the top of the sales quota chart, and knew my way around every station. I am also a friendly, non-confrontational 5′ girl with a high pitched voice who everyone thought of as “sweet. ”Promotion went to a larger, louder coworker who had been with us 3 weeks. I asked my manager why, he said it was because a manager needs to keep people in line, and he believed nobody would respect my authority, they would walk all over me. 5 years later I am still tiny, high pitched, and non-confrontational, get talked down to frequently, and feel like I’m never going to get anywhere in the world. How do I get people to respect me?
1-5 Tips to get people to take your authority seriously
1. Read the book Crucial Conversations and/OR Crucial Confrontations front to back. Without reading that, the rest of this is useless to you.
2. Learn to set boundaries (without sounding whiny). Simply take the emotion out of it. “I appreciate your feedback, but please don’t speak to me like a child.” Practice saying that without a single note of anger, resentment, or emotion in your voice. Imagine someone like Jessica from Suits (TV show) saying it. Taking the emotions out of it is very powerful, and it will naturally lead to you unconsciously doing a lot of the things discussed here like making eye-contact.
3. Give yourself permission to be direct and assertive. Many women feel that they have to be “nice.” Particularly if someone is rude to you, it is ok to make them feel uncomfortable if they have made you uncomfortable. You don’t always have to make sure everyone else is happy. You don’t have to giggle when situations become uncomfortable. It is ok to be serious, and it is ok for there to be a moment of uncomfortable tension while you work to resolve a situation.
4. Speak more slowly. Have a calm, low, measured tone. Speak a little more loudly, too. If you hear yourself speeding up during conflict, take a deep breath, literally lean back a bit, and shift your weight from your toes to your heels. Practice the art of pausing before you respond.
5. Have deliberate, purposeful movements. Avoid fiddling, touching hair, picking nails, etc. Learn to stand and sit in ways that take up physical space and demonstrate confidence: hands on hips; take up the whole chair; never step back if someone intrudes on your personal space. There is a lot of Internet stuff out there in power poses.
6-10 Tips to get people to take your authority seriously
6. Look like an adult. Can you wear 2-inch heels? Do you know how to apply makeup? You must wear professional makeup daily – it is just the way the world works. Not a lot. Maybe just mascara and a tinted moisturizer. It’s less about make-up and more about professionalism/hygiene. At work, avoid cute jewelry and so forth- this isn’t changing your personality, it is about being appropriate for work. If you have control over your clothing, gradually start to increase its professionalism. Example: short sleeves -> long sleeves -> collared shirts -> casual jackets. There are a few TV shows out there (I think on E!) that will get you started. Don’t do it overnight, and if you get teased, tease right back rather than being afraid or saying “sorry.”
7. Higher-ups in management are often more relaxed. When they are out of earshot of customers, they may throw in a cuss word. Real friends aren’t always complimenting each other, they tease each other in a lighthearted way that no one takes seriously. You need to learn to relax, not take yourself too seriously, and start being able to give AND receive what guys refer to as “some sh*t.” You’ll know you’re on the right track when they start teasing you about your height and, rather than feeling bad, you laugh and you immediately fire back at them with a lighthearted jab at their tardiness to work, shirt, lunch preferences, or whatever. Only once they know you don’t take things personally will they begin to relax around you and respect you. Try learning the “cocky-funny” style of banter that seduction experts talk about. Don’t overdo the “negging” – you have to learn the line of how far is too far, as you never truly intend to insult someone, but you want to seem relaxed. You also should avoid anything that will take it over the line to flirting, like any talk about sex. It is a fine line for a woman, but at minimum they should hear you swear in casual, appropriate contexts on occasion.
8. Take words like “sorry”, “just” (e.g. I was just wondering), think/believe (“I guess/I think we could…”) and use words like “let’s do this”, “thank you for your patience.” Don’t apologize or minimize, through your words, for existing or for what you think. If someone gives you some line about why they don’t want to do something, and you know it is the right way to go, say, “regardless, this strategy has worked for us in the past and is the right one.”
9. Give off the appearance of competence. Be on top of everything, all the time, without becoming the secretary. Make sure you aren’t doing housewife/lower level stuff (planning office parties, making office prettier, or scheduling things). Also, don’t be the office “solver” for interpersonal conflict, going between two people – that is just like gossiping. All these things immediately put you in the subordinate role. When someone brings up dislikes on another person, change the subject.
10. Do something outside of work that is challenging/you have to work hard at, has some risk involved to your ego (e.g. you might not be good at it), that requires and builds discipline, and that will build your confidence. That can include rock climbing, hiking, lifting weights, anything physical that gets adrenaline up and that your office mates would find interesting. You don’t ever even need to discuss it with your colleagues, but the increase in your confidence will show through.