9 Proven Ways to Get People to Take You Seriously
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
If you're going to get anywhere in business, you need people to take you seriously.
According to the research, you can increase your credibility with the right presentation, knowledge, and people skills.
1. Let people talk about themselves.
Here's a secret to making a good impression: Let people talk about themselves.
According to Harvard research, talking about yourself stimulates the same brain regions as sex or a good meal.
"Activation of this system when discussing the self suggests that self-disclosure ... may be inherently pleasurable," Scientific American reports.
And when people talk about their experiences, they become more vulnerable to one another, and when they become more vulnerable to one another, they form social bonds and coinvest in one another's welfare.
2. Dress the part.
"Appearance is our first filter," says Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of the book "Executive Presence." "And it's happening all the time."
Princeton researchers have found that it takes about 100 milliseconds to register a first impression, or as long as a hummingbird flaps its wings.
"The really good news here is that it's about polish, grooming, and being put together," Hewlett says. "It's not about the precise shape of your body, texture of your hair, or the designer you wear."
You don't have to wear a gray suit all the time, she says. Instead, pay attention to how the best-dressed people in your organization and industry put themselves together, then pattern after them.
3. Master the handshake.
A strong handshake isn't a matter of squeezing somebody's paw.
It's a matter of presence.
Esquire's Tom Chiarella details how to exude it:
On the street, in the lobby, square your shoulders to people you meet. Make a handshake matter — eye contact, good grip, elbow erring toward a right angle. Do not pump the hand, unless the other person is insistent on just that. Then pump the hell out of their hand. Smile. If you can't smile, you can't be gracious. You aren't some dopey English butler. You are you.
A handshake like that shows that you're paying respect to the person you're talking to, and as science has confirmed, giving respect gets respect.
4. Keep your posture expansive.
Your posture has a huge effect on the way you feel, the way you present yourself, and how other people receive your presence.
For instance, if you do the standard "power pose" of keeping your shoulders open and arms wide, that will tell your hormone system to release the chemicals needed to make you look and feel more confident.
"If you take an expansive pose, it can actually lead to power," MIT professor Andy Yap tells Business Insider.
5. Know what's going on in the world.
The best-selling game developer Valve likes to hire "T-shaped" employees, meaning they have deep expertise in one area coupled with interest across a range of subjects.
That pattern can be expanded to anybody's career.
If you work in business, then "be up to speed on changes in your industry so you can speak about them intelligently," says Roberta Matuson. The "Suddenly in Charge" author recommends reading business news daily "so you can speak intelligently on business matters."
But you need a broad base of knowledge, too — so keep up with science, tech, and popular culture.
To improve your reading habits, read this.
6. Be ridiculously prepared.
"Ignorance is one of the professional world's least respectable traits — if not the worst," Roberto Rocha writes at AskMen. "If you want your ideas to count, be better informed than everyone else."
In other words, you need to develop a ridiculously deep knowledge of your subject area.
Executives like Marissa Mayer and Elon Musk are known for pulling apart any idea that gets pitched their way. Count on the pitches you make to be scrutinized, and have your arguments prepared ahead of time.
It's a matter of "embodying your intellectual horsepower," says Hewlett.
7. Tell people stories.
Numbers impress — but they're not enough to connect with people.
Take it from TED Talks: The most successful presentations are about 65% stories and 25% figures, with the remainder an explanation of your credibility.
Sheryl Sandberg realized this just before giving her groundbreaking TED Talk in 2010.
"I was planning to give a speech chock full of facts and figures, and nothing personal," she said in an interview.
But before she went on stage, a friend stopped her, saying that she looked out of sorts. Sandberg said that as she was leaving home that day, her daughter was tugging at her leg, asking her not to go.
Why not tell that story, her friend asked her. Sandberg listened — and launched a movement.
8. Watch your tone.
If you say a statement with the intonation of a question, that's called "upspeak."
If you're ending your sentences with a higher tone than you began with, then you'll sound unsure of what you're saying — even if you're really not.
In a recent survey, 57% of 700 professionals said that they think that upspeak makes people sound less credible.
"The numbers speak for themselves," says strategy consultant Bernard Marr. "Upspeak has no place at work. If you would like a thriving career, then simply don't do it!"
9. Stay confident — and humble.
Venture capitalist and "Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck: What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur and Build a Great Business" coauthor Anthony K. Tjan says that garnering respect requires marrying humility to confidence.
"You need enough self-confidence to command the respect of others, but that needs to be counter-balanced with knowing that there is much you simply don't know," he writes. "Humility is the path towards earning respect, while self-confidence is the path towards commanding it."
Bonus: The more you know what you don't know, the more eager you'll be to learn.