Ever walk into a room and feel the need to tone down your personality - or some cases, amplify it - to fit in and be taken seriously? I'm the last person to be taken seriously in a conference room... until I start talking. Granted, if you've seen my recent YouTube video you'll know I'm not big on censoring myself. I'm the type of person that if a not-so-nice word fits into a point I'm trying to make, I will use it. I also talk fairly loudly, laugh at the not-so-right moments, have red hair, big boobs, and tattoos. Oh and I'm Italian so I'm really animated. So, you might ask, how is one to be taken seriously without compromising who they are to fit in? I'll tell you one thing, some of the most captivating people I know are quirky and once you meet them, you never forget them. They get taken seriously, why shouldn't you?
What's the problem?
First of all, let's define 'taken seriously'. Do you need a phD from an ivy league? Should you always be done up with a perma-suit glued to your body at all times - briefcase, glasses and bluetooth optional? For the sake of this article, being taken seriously means that no matter what situation you're in, you're regarded as a trusted source, a part of the 'in crowd', and an entity worthy of discussing a certain topic.
Don't worry, you're not transforming into a suit, you're putting on your super hero cape.
Let's begin by tackling a couple of common problems.
Problem: When your voice lacks volume, you either go unnoticed or shrugged off and you're inevitably regarded as someone who knows nothing about what's going on. The problem is, just because you're shy it doesn't mean you're weak or have nothing of value to say, it just means people don't really listen.
Solution: There are 2 big things you need to do to fix it. First, depending on the situation, you need to work on your shyness. If being taken seriously is something that really matters to you, you have to step outside of your comfort zone and speak up. And second, when you do speak up choose your words wisely. You don't have to run around blabbing and shouting to get noticed, but when you do talk, make sure it's of value.
But the real solution to being taken seriously when you're shy is fairly simple: find another way of communicating. Write a book, start a blog, try art, and even hand write post it notes if you have to. If the only thing standing in the way of you being taken seriously is your inability to step out of your shell in a social gathering, find a way around it.
Problem: This is me, for example. I like being the center of attention, but I am weird as hell. I say weird things, accidentally drop f-bombs while talking to sweet nanas, and I make jokes that make people uncomfortable, which I often cover up by dancing randomly while everyone shifts uncomfortably in their seats. Hi, I'm Chiara and I'm weird as hell. Being awkward is normal.
Fix it: The #1 piece of advice that has served me well as 'an awkward' is to move on quickly. So you make a bad joke? Say the wrong thing? Fix it by moving on quickly onto a relevant topic of discussion - and do so with a tone of expertise. People's minds don't work as quickly as your insecurities do.
You Have No Idea What They're Talking About
Problem: We can't know everything about every single topic that exists. There will be times in social gatherings that people will be talking about shit you have no idea about. Nodding nonstop and agreeing to everything will only make you look like a 'follower' and in most cases. followers aren't taken seriously.
Fix it: Admit to your lack of knowledge and compliment yourself, publicly, on what you do know. For example, I know nothing about politics - by choice. But when I'm in a group of people who start chatting up about a current event, I'll ask them to explain. "Bah! I may know everything and everything going on in social media and blogging, but the Middle East is definitely not my area of expertise. Can you explain what happened?" Believe it or not, people respect an individual who fesses up. What really screws with your rep is when you get caught in a lie.
Your Style Sticks Out Like a Sore Thumb
Problem: You have tattoos, rainbow hair and a nose piercing that you couldn't imagine your face without.
Fix it: Don't fix it. Instead, mold yourself to show the world you're making the effort. But don't change who you are in the process. For example, just because you have blue hair doesn't mean you can't put it up in a neat bun and add a flower clip to the side of it. Just because you like wearing black doesn't mean you can't buy a cute black pencil skirt and a rad black blouse to go with it. You can still look the part without compromising who you are in the process. Especially if you follow the additional tips below.
More Tips on Being Taken Seriously
There are tons of reasons that prevent us from being taken seriously. Below is a list of tips guaranteed to help you in any situation. (Feel free to add any below)
- Educate yourself. When you arm yourself with knowledge, you hold the power. With knowledge comes wisdom and with wisdom comes respect.
- Listen, don't interrupt and don't ramble: I had a professor who used to always say, "You ramble when you're insecure and don't have anything of value to say" Get to the point quickly and make sure the punch line leaves a lasting impression.
- Keep your cool - No one likes a psycho (in a relationship, in the conference room, or at a party) Even if you're the outgoing and animated type, keep a sense of restraint - i.e. don't run around the room yelling, pouring tequila down your shirt and calling yourself an artist.
- Carry wit in your back pocket, it'll save you.
- Trust yourself. No matter how much of an expert you are in your field, insecurity beams through your body language and destroys any credibility you build.
- And lastly, focus on you. Much like the hot, confident babe everyone's obsessed with, the effort doesn't go into making everyone like you or in this case, take you seriously. The effort goes into building yourself up worthy of being taken seriously. Work on your confidence, embrace your inner badass.
Don't worry. Everyone will notice, too. In the end, some of the coolest people I know are those who embrace themselves for who they are and let that quirkiness shine through their behavior. They're memorable. They don't fit in, they stick out, and people respect them for it. Stand by your actions, arm yourself with knowledge and confidence.
Want to be taken seriously? Always surprise them. Embrace what makes you unique and amplify it with confidence.
What advice do you have for those wanting to be taken seriously?