Most people are terrific at what they do and yet at times find themselves getting blown up in the minefield of workplace hostility.
Here it isn’t a question of competence at their job; it’s often to do with ‘Gravitas’, and their lack of it. But what is Gravitas? How does one develop this skill and get ahead?
Browse the video lesson below to find out. And remember to take the quiz at the end of the lesson.
This lesson is in a video format
We recognise that some participants prefer reading to listening. If you are one of them, then you can access a transcript of the lesson by clicking on the View Transcript button below the video.
In the video that follows, Deepika finds herself in the crosshairs of Uday, her boss. Uday is visibly outraged over an infraction that he believes Deepika is responsible for. Let’s see how the scenario plays out.
Lessons from the Video
That was quite a spot to be in. But if the way in which Deepika influenced Uday is anything to go by, with Uday apologizing in the end, she handled it well, don’t you think? Let’s try and examine how Deepika exerted influence in a charged social situation:
You will recall that it didn’t start well for Deepika. Here’s how she first responded to Uday’s onslaught.
* The symptoms you see, i.e. clenched fingers, shallow breathing, are some signature indicators that Deepika’s body is responding to the stress of dealing with Uday by releasing a series of hormones that are making her hyper-alert, and pumping adrenaline into her bloodstream. In such a state, which psychologists call “fight or flight”, people either fight back against the stressor, which would be the equivalent of Deepika lashing back out at Uday, or look to flee from the stressor, which would be the equivalent of Deepika leaving the room in a rush or backing down and accepting blame prematurely.
Deepika avoided these extremes. Here’s what she did instead:
* One: She calms herself down through deep breathing, and composes her posture to release any residual tension. This allows her to think rationally. With her thinking in the clear, Deepika says something interesting…
* Saying “I hear you” does not indicate or imply that you agree with what they are saying. Rather, saying so acknowledges and validates the other’s plight and emotion, without incriminating oneself in any way. And it works. You can see Uday visibly calm down *.
*With Uday no longer under the influence of his temper, Deepika proceeded with the conversation
*Deepika now seeks to get details of the ‘errors’ that got Uday furious. She probed Uday for the details and confirmed the nature of the problem.
Only then did she proceed to resolve the perceived problem. She was able to separate the facts of the situation from Uday’s interpretation of it – she was not incompetent. It was a communication issue. And Uday apologised for his outburst.
In brief, Deepika fought the unproductive ‘fight-or-flight response’, expressed empathy, asked probing questions and then clarified her position on the matter. These are all elements of ‘Grace Under Fire’ a key component of Gravitas. People who can maintain their composure when faced with stressors are seen as possessing this magical quality and can exert greater social influence than those that do not.
*You now know that Deepika was not at fault. It would have been completely understandable for her to become defensive or offensive.
Yet, Deepika didn’t seem to be under any compulsion to ‘prove herself right’ and ‘tell Uday off’. *If anything, she accorded Uday with respect, and maintained her self-respect at the same time.
There was an air of ‘Quiet Confidence’ around her.
And Quiet Confidence is another element of gravitas and influencing ability.
Lastly, her energy levels were appropriately matched with Uday’s. *When Uday was ranting, her energy and enthusiasm were in check. (Would it not be strange if she were smiling at the start when Uday was enumerating her errors?). Later in the conversation, when Uday apologizes for yelling at her, Deepika smiles and her energy levels are appropriate in the interest of being cordial (Can you imagine how it would have looked if Deepika was straight-faced here?)
This ability to regulate energy and enthusiasm levels in the interest of appropriate social engagement is termed as ‘Perceived Extraversion’ and is another vital component of Gravitas. You would do well to imbibe this.
To put it all together, Deepika displayed Grace Under Fire, Quiet Confidence and Perceived Extraversion. These are elements of Gravitas – the ability to get someone to take you seriously. Imbibing these will help you better influence thought and action in social situations.
There are two other elements of gravitas that we’ll cover in the next lesson. For now, please take the accompanying quiz.