05 Mastering the Art of Gravitas

By Sian Disson, Senior Media Consultant

Gravitas. We all know someone that has it. That friend or colleague that holds your attention, makes you feel valued and listened to, and whose advice you trust implicitly. They’re respected by their peers, admired in business circles and unquestioned in their knowledge and credibility.

But what exactly is gravitas, and can it be learned? Earlier this week, Red Setter joined a sold-out session at the YCN library with Catherine Allison, founder of consultancy agency Master the Art who explained that yes, the art of gravitas can be learned and, once mastered, applied to almost any situation.

So, why do we need it? Catherine referred to the Cambridge Dictionary’s definition as ‘seriousness and importance of manner, causing feelings of respect and trust in others’. Essentially, that intangible quality that comes from inner confidence, enabling us to speak so that others will listen and trust in what we say.

In business – across all sectors – gravitas is a powerful tool. It gives weight to the advice we offer our clients. Builds confidence in our abilities during new business meetings. And enables strong leadership in a team environment.

Very useful then. But how to achieve it? Catherine had the room shout out attributes we often assign to those who have gravitas. Self-assured, logical, decisive, articulate, strong tone of voice, eye contact and unflappable were quickly shared, followed by more considered points – comfortable with a pause, able to use humour, effortless in their delivery.

With so much to remember, Catherine shared a simple formula for achieving gravitas:

Knowledge + Purpose + Passion (- Anxiety) = Gravitas

The key is to find the right balance. Ensuring you’re fully prepared with the knowledge you need for a big meeting, for example, then speaking calmly and concisely with poise under pressure. Clearly identifying the purpose behind what you’re saying and why it matters to you and your audience. And delivering this information with energy and passion.

For most people, anxiety can be the stumbling block. Catherine assured us that this can be overcome by using tricks and techniques for mind over matter – such as listening to our inner critic and inner coach and allowing them to guide and refine our behaviours.

In the end, authenticity is key. Yes, you may need the right balance of knowledge, purpose and passion, but personality is just as important. A clear, strong voice will only get you so far if you’re not being yourself – and it’s this unique quality that will build connections. Just stop flailing about while you do it…

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