You might be kicking butt and taking names at work — knocking out stellar presentations, solving complex problems, and delivering solid results. But if you’re looking to get an edge, it’s time to turn away from traditional job advice.
Beyond focusing on doing good work, there are subtle psychological tricks you can incorporate into your power-moves repertoire. Here are five ways to get ahead by influencing your colleagues (and even a trick to play on yourself).
Speak Quickly — but Don’t Forget to Pause
When you want to sway someone’s opinion, how quickly you speak can make all the difference. When University of Michigan scientists analyzed which recordings were most effective at convincing subjects to participate in a mock telephone study, they found the speed of the caller’s voice was the most important factor.
The researchers thought the liveliest talkers — with varied pitch and speed — would be the most convincing, but the results told a different story. The voices that spoke moderately fast (at a rate of about 3.5 words per second) and took short pauses (four to five pauses per minute) as they spoke were the most successful at convincing others.
Do you need to get your team on board with a contentious decision? Practice your speaking skills at home by recording how you talk and then using a timer to identify your best pace. You’re seeking to squeeze in about 3.5 words per second, but you’re not just talking fast. You also want to make sure you take about four pauses per minute too. So when you greet your audience with a quick, “Ok!Let’sgetstarted!” for example, remember to also pause to allow your words to sink in.
Take a Stand
You might not think that something as simple as the way a room is set up can have an impact on your brain, but Washington University at St. Louis researchers may have found the secret to influencing your coworkers’ teamwork skills: Remove the chairs. The study authors discovered that a “non-sedentary workspace” — one that encourages employees to get out of their chairs — keeps people energized. The study also found that moving around makes people more flexible about ideas and makes them more interested in and good at collaborating.
If your team is looking sluggish, try this technique during your next meeting. Mix it up by having everyone gather at a whiteboard instead of around a table. If your company is game, propose some small upgrades to your office: Standing desks or even bistro-style tall tables for quick meetings or lunches.
Break the Rules
Want to pull a power move on your first day at a new job? Go on, help yourself to that cup of coffee without waiting for an invitation. Small, authoritative actions like this psych out your audience, giving them the impression that you’re in power, found University of Amsterdam researchers. People read authority when you step outside the norms — it makes you look like you answer only to yourself, as opposed to being someone who diligently follows all the rules of polite company.
Of course, remember that the research emphasizes small, subtle actions, and not grand ones that overstep boundaries with your boss. So toss your bag down or turn on your laptop with authority when you arrive, but don’t go too far and establish yourself as the office jerk.
Open With Sarcasm
When you want to foster creativity among staff, use sarcasm to warm them up, says Harvard Business School research. After a series of studies in which subjects were exposed to conversations that were sarcastic, sincere, or neutral, those who were in the sarcastic scenarios performed better on creative tasks afterwards.
This suggested to the authors that sarcasm must activate a part of the mind that promotes creative thinking. After all, decoding a sarcastic statement takes some brainpower — and perhaps just the kind you want from your colleagues when it’s crunch time on a new project. So what kind of sarcasm works best? Steer clear of humor that insults the receiver or makes a dig at someone else in the workplace. Instead, take a light jab at yourself.
Dressing more formally (the kind of clothes you’d wear to a job interview) doesn’t just look good, it can actually help you handle criticism and feel more in control, too, according to California State University Northridge and Columbia University researchers. “Putting on formal clothes makes us feel powerful, and that changes the basic way we see the world,” says study author Abraham Rutchick.
Suiting up helps you put criticism in perspective by enhancing your abstract thinking ability, versus the concrete thinking processes that often lead us astray (study authors cite impulsive purchases as an example of thinking about money in too concrete a way). Abstract thinking allows you to take criticism in stride instead of letting it hurt your self-esteem. So if you think you’re in for a dressing down with your boss, remember to listen carefully, take responsibility, offer solutions, and dress up.