You want your audiences to respect you? Of course. You strongly disagree with the attitudes of some individuals in your audience? Of course - it happens to all speakers, at presentations and just speaking up at meetings.
But do those attitudes make you feel 'unsafe'?
Here's the bad news.
You cannot feel 'unsafe' and have personal authority at the same time.
You're serious about speaking with personal authority? Then make every effort to abandon the damaging psychological condition of I feel unsafe when confronted with disagreeable words and ideas. The condition will seriously limit your ability to make your own ideas heard. In fact it is doubly dangerous.
How ironic that the real danger is not in being unsafe, but in adopting the 'I feel unsafe' mentality. And yet no one can make you feel like a victim without your permission.
Am I overdoing how you interpret the word 'unsafe'? Unsafe means that you feel threatened - the original meaning implies physical danger. But maybe those disagreeable attitudes just make you feel uncomfortable and you've adopted the word 'unsafe' to describe it. But either way - unsafe or just uncomfortable - you're not doing yourself any favours by allowing that state-of-mind. Instead...
Choose to be comfortable with the natural diversity of ideas and beliefs in your audience.
Choose to be comfortable when a member of your audience expresses ideas utterly opposed to your own. Those ideas are an inevitable outcome of that person's background. You are above feeling threatened. You are a leader.
That does not mean you should ignore such individuals, or write them off as just 'politically correct', or reply with dismissive aggression.
It does mean this...
Respond passionately and respectfully with your own opinion. Verbally disagree with the individual with a manner and body language that accepts the person. That person gets the same warmth as anyone else. No to the ideas, yes to the person - simultaneously. It takes the steam out of them.
It's been my obsession for more than 20 years. What attracts the respect of your audience, regardless of their culture, language, race, religion, age or gender? What attracts their personal respect for you even when they don't like your message?
The answer is remarkably simple. (And it's nothing to do with being word-perfect, or the way you use PowerPoint.)
Just two core qualities attract all audiences: the presenter's personal strength, and the presenter's connection with them. And almost all of us are are inherently capable of both of those qualities.
But, of course, there's a catch.
Under pressure, our self-protection instinct kicks in. Just like a curtain, we pull an opaque screen around us, that stops the audience seeing those core qualities. What's the screen? Self-consciousness. How ironic that our self-protection instinct weakens us in the eyes of the audience.
So. What to do about it. How do we best flick back that damaging screen so that audiences can see us at our best? Here's the most practical, simple, useful tip to come out of training many hundreds of people. It's the tip most likely to lead to that phrase 'life-changing'.
Make it obvious that you want your audience to get the message.
No, it's not enough that you want them to get it, the magic ingredient is in showing that you want them to get it. For most of us that means deliberately getting more animated with our voice and body language. More importantly it also means getting busier with our eyes, emphatically seeking people out. At home, try this: look in a mirror and show an interest in your own face - watch your eyebrows rise, your eyes widen.
Audiences respond. They feel respect. I like that.