Negative Side Of Authentic Gravitas


Gravitas is not about being aggressive, bullying, manipulative, coercive, showing-off, 'big noting' yourself, fostering an environment of fear, using positional power to achieve self-serving goals, etc. This negative side of gravitas can be shown when someone is posturing and dominating in such a way that other people or the situation are adversely impacted. You need to be mindful of your impact on the audience like controlling the conversation and stopping the audience from contributing. You need to get the balance between inquiry and advocacy right so that you do not reduce the potential collective knowledge, understanding, and insight. You need to be aware of any negative impact on the audience, ie you need to add value without detracting from the audience's ability to do the same. Generally, people who do not want 'to be seen' are insecure and lack confidence; their behaviour is seen as self-importance rather than self-protecting (usually people have sympathy for the latter and no tolerance for the former). People with gravitas create an  environment in which the audience is comfortable being open, vulnerable and courageous themselves to somebody else.

Surface Gravitas ('paying lip' service to gravitas)

This is an element of adverse or negative gravitas.It is about people being self-serving, assertive, loud and dominating. It involves people who feel it too busy for 'small talk', eg social chit chat, are indifferent and generally feeling too self-important, so that they have a negative impact on the audience.An example is ignoring people when you are walking past them in the office. This action can be easily misinterpreted, eg as rudeness/incivility and/or not happy with their performance. If it is the latter, it is better to have the necessary difficult conversation rather than sending non-verbal messages which can be easily misinterpreted and can perpetuate a lack of relational clarity.

"...we can't control exactly how our messages are perceived, but we can choose to take ownership of the messages we send..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019

You need to get feedback on how your messages (including non-verbal) are received and perceived and, based on the feedback, make any necessary adjustments to your behaviour. The more positive your messages are to the audience that you value them, the better performance you will get from the audience. On the other hand, if you make people feel excluded or isolated, their performance and functionality is reduced in areas such as

"...verbal reasoning, problem-solving, planning, sequencing, sustaining attention and resisting interference, utilising feedback, multitasking, cognitive flexibility and the ability to deal with novelty..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019

Also, the less valued people feel, the more they will turn to their subconscious response of self-preservation, ie show less emotions, be less engaging, try to maintain control, etc

Virtual Gravitas

The start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, resulted in significant numbers of people starting to work remotely; this has increased the use of virtual working (electronic). In comparing electronic and face-to-face communications, the electronic

"...communications fluency was around 90% of face-to-face..."

Rebecca Newton, 2019

This has increased the challenges of people not being in the same room, ie greater chance of misinterpreting cues, etc. It requires more effort to minimise the gap between intention and impact, to read body language, have informal conversations, etc. Otherwise, the challenges are the same, ie

"...what are your inside goals? How do you want them (people you engage with via video chat/call/e-mail/text) to think, feel, and potentially act differently as a result of this encounter with you? What is motivating them? What is their perception of the situation and you right now? If nothing else, what would you want them to remember and pass on? How should you open and close? What stories would be relevant about your message? And finally, think about your technique..."


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