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Gravitas-what is it and how do you get it?

I am listening to an audio book at the moment by Caroline Goyder: “Gravitas”. It looks at gravitas and advances a definition of what gravitas is and how to acquire it.

Goyder defines gravitas as knowledge plus purpose plus passion, less anxiety. It is probably a reasonable definition but gravitas is something that is hard to define but easy to recognise when you come face to face with it.

The book puts forward 6 or 7 principles of gravitas and then gives tips and tricks about how to acquire it. She also looks at  a number of scenarios where you might wish to possess gravitas: giving talks or speeches, meetings, phone calls, etc.

The principles of gravitas, according to Goyder, are

  1. Know yourself
  2. Teach people how to treat you
  3. Find your voice
  4. Speak so others will listen
  5. Win hearts and minds (you need to strike the correct balance between analytics and passion)
  6. Keep an open mind and a level head
  7. Get results (intention and attention)

As I listen to this book I have also had to attend my annual CPD event to ensure I fulfil the requirements for members of the Law Society of Ireland. The first speaker I encountered was Edward Walsh SC, an experienced senior counsel, who spoke about developments in the area of personal injuries law in Ireland.

His fluent delivery and communication, devoid of filler words, ‘ums’ and ‘ehs’, and stumbles, made his talk digestible and extremely consumable.

I think it is fair to say that he had gravitas, but if you look at Goyder’ definition of knowledge, purpose, passion, and the absence of anxiety Mr Walsh had all of these things in spades, with the exception of passion.

In fairness, passion may not be the most important factor of gravitas when you are discussing personal injury law and developments. If Mr Walsh was representing me, for example, I would be satisfied if he had the knowledge, purpose, and absence of anxiety if going to Court.

But I am not saying that passion is not a factor in possessing gravitas.

Because dry knowledge and expertise alone may not be enough and Goyder makes the point that gravitas involves striking a balance on a scale between logos (knowledge)-an analytical, knowledge based approach and pathos (emotion)-emotion, passion, and empathy.

This is a book I would recommend highly because not only does she set out a compelling thesis about gravitas but she also provides many tools, tips, tricks, exercises which you can do to improve your performance in meetings, on the phone, delivering talks, and so on.

You can pick up the book on Amazon here.

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