Gravitas – Caroline Goyder

Seeing as it’s January and I have absolutely no intention of joining a gym, I thought I would treat Big Magic as a kickstart into some self-improvement of the mind instead. It was a clear choice, then, to pick up Gravitas, a book about… well, about how to have more gravitas!

It’s nothing if not aptly named.

I bought this book a while ago, off the back of a careers event I attended. I actually met the author; she was one of the speakers, and not only did I really enjoy her panel (her short session was definitely one of the highlights of the day for me) but it turns out we went to the same university!  (I blogged about the event itself, and meeting Caroline, here: she’s one of those people who make you feel incredible about yourself sort of without really trying. These people are important, and make the world a better place, and I would like to be one of them.)

Inspired by the content and presentation of her panel, I bought a signed copy of her book… and then didn’t get round to reading it for aaages. Confession time: I really struggle with reading non-fiction; particularly ‘self-help’ style non-fiction. I don’t really know why – I just get on better with stories than with instruction! So Gravitas, unsurprisingly, took me a little while to get into the flow of when I finally did get around to picking it up.

Having finished it, though, I would have to say that it’s not a reflection on the book, but simply a reflection of my reading habits. The book’s good! It’s written how the author speaks, with a fairly natural voice, but a very clear structure. It’s divided into two parts; the first breaks down the principles of gravitas – with each principle having its own chapter and features – and the second acts as sort of a selection box for specific situations (such as presentations, interviews, TV appearances, phone calls). You can clearly see the thought and planning that’s gone into making this a useful book; no heavy textbook with reams of dry theory here, no – Goyder gives real, practical illustrations alongside real, practical exercises, tips and tricks.

Each chapter contains Try This sections – exercises designed to help you practice the different principles of having gravitas – and rounds up with a nice helpful Toolkit summary to really fix it in your mind.

I’d say the best thing about Gravitas is how clearly Goyder practices what she preaches – she talks about presenting yourself clearly, with structure, authenticity and credibility… and the book is clear, structured, authentic and credible.

Personally, I’ve had a lot of drama training as well as workplace learning (like management courses that include learning how to manage a good meeting), so much of the content was familiar to me – but I still put the book down having gleaned some new ideas and ways to approach my working persona. I think my favourite section was about how to deal with ‘Gremlins’ – the unhelpful workplace behaviours that can disrupt gravitas when they appear in oneself or others. I’m pretty good at projecting a calm, gravitas-y self when all things are well, but still have a habit of letting people get under my skin sometimes, so I was really pleased to find some potential techniques for controlling that.

Overall, Gravitas is a really interesting blend of performance theory, psychology and business, nicely packaged in plain, accessible English for real life application. A nice easy brain-gym session for January!

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