The actions listed below are those that female executives probably would not be aware of if they weren’t pointed out. Simple changes in behaviour can make the difference between being perceived as powerful and in control and merely being part of the pack. Do you recognise these behaviours in yourself?
1. Women do not fill their physical space. Powerful people take up more space than those who question their ability. It is not a matter of size; rather, it has to do with the way women hold themselves. Visualise Superman or Wonder Women: They stand with their hands on their hips and their legs apart.
2. Women introduce themselves too soon. For the first 7 seconds of meeting a person, no one pays attention to what is being said. The visual message is the first to be received and is absorbed before the aural. That helps explain why we often forget the names of people we’ve just met. We were too busy taking in visual signals to pay attention to the words being spoken.
3. Women nod when listening. Men nod their heads to demonstrate agreement. Women perform the same action to show that they are listening. It is a sign of empathy and connectedness, rather than agreement. Men often mistake this action, assuming that a woman is agreeing with what is being said, when what she is actually doing is just paying attention to what he is saying.
4. Women tilt their heads when conversing. Note how women tend to tilt their heads when they speak. A tilted head indicates that the person is committed to what is being discussed. It demonstrates an active listening style and is a sign of an empathetic communicator. This position deters from the strength of the communication and is a weak position from which to speak.
5. Women’s voices go up at the ends of sentences. Because women’s natural instinct is to please, their voices tend to rise at the end of their sentences, giving the sense of asking a question or seeking approval rather than making a statement. This explains why a woman’s suggestions may be given short shrift during business meetings.
6. Women fidget. According to behavioural studies, when men enter a conference room they make 12 major movements. 27 is the average for women. While many of these involve getting settled in their seat, women will also make adjustments to their clothes, hair and jewellery. Random, excessive movements indicate nervousness and will detract from your sense of authority. You will be perceived as being weak and nervous.
7. Women allow men to finish their sentences for them. While no woman would want to acknowledge this, it is quite common for women to fade out at the end of a sentence, allowing men to pick up on what they were saying and finish the thought. Women will also allow themselves to be interrupted, while rarely interrupting another speaker. Over time, these behaviours will lead to low self-esteem as others take advantage of the opportunity she has created for them to be heard.
Special thanks to Evie Cousineau