7 ways to boost your authority – without feeling like a fraud

How we appear to others matters at least as much as what we say.   You may have certain questions before a conversation that decides a relationship, a project or even your future, such as:

  • Will I be taken seriously?
  • How can I be firm without appearing bossy or domineering?
  • What makes people listen to him and not to me?
  • What do I need to do to show I can be trusted with more responsibility?

If you suddenly change your persona with people who already know you, they’ll wonder if you’ve been possessed.  With people who don’t, you’d have to learn to keep up the ‘front’.

What you need is very subtle ways of showing clear intention and reliability: a sense of authority.

Use these 7 tweaks to increase your gravitas without having to pretend to be someone you’re not.


1. Learn how to lower your vocal pitch

Something magical happens when you speak with a lower pitch.  I’ve tried this in grocery shops, cold calls to prospective clients and pitching ideas.

People seem to want to listen.

The gravitas is increased.  You sound like you know what you’re about.  People are more engaged and the research backs this up.

Right before you make that call or speak up in a meeting.  Look at Tip Number Three, right here to make your voice a fraction lower but just enough to have that edge.

2. Use more pauses

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Mark Twain

The use of pause when speaking is vital if you want to make your key points stand out.   It shows you’re speaking with intention if you know where the emphasis lies.

It gives your listener time to take in what you’ve said.  Making connections with their own experience, they have a deeper connection with what you’re saying.

Pauses indicate too, that you’re not just shooting from the hip.  Pausing before answering gives weight also to what’s been said by others.

Now, your mind may be flipping like a Roladex, your heart pounding as you search for the right words.  But as long as you pause and breathe, ain’t no-one going to see it.  You’ll look collected, as if you’re in deep consideration.

That radiates more authority than anyone jumping straight in with a volley of responses.

So take your time and weigh your words with brief pauses for emphasis.

3. Maintain vocal projection

Many people allow their voices to drop at the end of phrases which is where the most vital part of a message often is.  As a result, it’s lost, ‘dribbled’ away before it ever reaches the listener’s ears.

This could be a matter of breath control or the fact that the speaker is actually not confident in what they’re saying.

Whatever the reason, holding on to the last key syllable of phrases is vital to hold the attention of others.

Here’s how not to dribble:

4. Use purposeful gestures

Are your gestures aligned with what you’re saying?

Colgate University grabbed a group of viewers to watch CEOs talking on video, measuring their brainwaves whilst viewing.

The researchers discovered that when the gesture of the speakers didn’t align with their message, the viewers’ brain waves hit a dip.  For instance, if the speaker pointed upwards when describing a decrease, viewers’ brains would momentarily scramble, hence losing the impact of a statement.

We experience that that dip when there’s a lack of understanding such as when we don’t hear someone or they slip into another language.

Research has shown that gesture reinforces a listener’s comprehension of what’s said so ensure that your gesture is congruent with your meaning.

5. Posture confidently

You can turn up your authority no matter what your given role is within an organisation.

In multiple studies, the way you carry yourself is more important than hierarchy in how you you’re perceived.   The New Kellogg school  studied  ‘posture expansiveness’ whereby subjects who opened up their body language and adopted an upright position were taken more seriously than those who were constricted and slouched.

So pull up and use the space.

6. Learn to use eye contact effectively

Establishing eye contact while speaking is a mark of respect.  From Italy to Iran, eye contact is sustained slightly longer than in Anglo-Saxon cultures in order to establish the importance of a statement.  For example, when you want to warn someone against a course of action or emphasise the benefits of your product.

Eye contact would be less intense in other cultures.  It may be avoided in certain parts of Asia or Africa as a sign of respect to those seen as having a higher given status, such as an employer or teacher.

Cutting off the eye contact gives a very different but strong signal after giving an instruction or making a point.   It would indicate that what you’ve just said is not up for negotiation.  There’s no dialogue here and an expectation that the other person clearly gets the message, so there’s no need to check in with them.

7. Give structure to your messages

When feedback is muddied and disorganised, the speaker can come across as having unclear intentions.

It’s also exhausting trying to decipher unclear messages, like translating smoke signals.

Keeping a message clear allows you to be seen as goal oriented, visionary and with an understanding of the challenges within a situation.   Want to get your ideas through and seriously considered?

Here’s a structure I’ve given to clients that I’ve never known not to work.


Your Action:

  1. In the next encounter you have, when there’s a strong message you want to get through, focus on only one aspect, such as purposeful gesture.
  2. After that, turn your attention to another aspect you wish to consolidate, such as structuring your message.
  3. Each time you’re in a position where you want others to see you mean business, simply hone one of these aspects.  Eventually, you’ll be doing them all when you need to, subconsciously.
If you’re looking to have your ideas taken more seriously, be listened to, and progress to the next level, then drop me an email at frankie@frankiekemp.com or fill out the contact form and I’ll get right back to you.


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