Co-author of the bestselling book Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential, Mathew Kohut is an expert in nonverbal communication and political presence– helping countless public figures champion their cause by first winning over their audience.

Currently being taught at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools, the book explains how people measure your strength and warmth within moments of meeting you.

“We were all born with an innate ability to read people,” says Mathew. “Is that person a friend or foe? Are they nervous or at ease? The way someone fiddles with their ring or  twists their hands are clues that will let us know how to proceed in our quest to connect with them.”

And connecting, explains Mathew, is the key to influence.

Anyone Can Be More Influential

Apparently, research proves these minor adjustments to your physical presentation can make you the magnetic person you aspire to be.

I wondered however, how someone struggling to be taken seriously in their office (or social circles) could benefit from this same expertise.

“We often think that in order to be taken seriously, we have to look serious,” says Mathew. “So we choose not to smile or to create emotional distance. But to gain the respect you’re looking for, you must first make others comfortable.”

“Get people to show you their best self,” explains Mathew.

“Choose language that is open and inclusive, ask questions, assure people they are valued.”

“Standing up straight and smiling is the bare minimum of what you must do to project the strength and warmth that leads to being influential. Make eye contact. Understand what people expect of you and start by addressing that concern.”

“Knowing how to project strength and warmth will help you understand how to go through the world.”

“People just want to know that you heard them, that you understand what they are looking for, and that you’re capable of doing what they believe you can do.”

Mathew Kohut is the of founding partners of KNP Communications. He holds a master’s degree from The Kennedy School of Government. Mathew resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife and children.

Mathew Kohut