You’re not a kid anymore—let the world know they should treat you with respect.

By Sharon Boone
Updated January 16, 2018
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Woman talking to two men in office
Credit: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

If you’ve ever tried, and failed, to flag down help at a customer service desk, or you’ve had your boss wave away your ideas like you’re a teenage intern instead of a respected colleague, you know how frustrating it can be to feel like you’re invisible. We asked some experts to share their best tips for how to command the attention of unimpressed bosses, dismissive sales people and indifferent contractors.

Woman talking to two men in office
Credit: Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Keep up the eye contact.

It might take practice before you’re comfortable, but it’s crucial to hold the gaze of your boss and colleagues during every interaction, rather than shuffling papers, skimming notes, or scanning the room. “Nonverbal interactions are key when you want to be taken more seriously,” says Leila Bulling Towne, an executive coach in San Francisco. “You can have clear thoughts, powerful data, and convincing arguments—yet people you interact with are easily distracted when your words are not paired with visual impact.”

Take your voice down a tone.

The good genes that blessed you with a youthful appearance can also make it harder for you to be seen as an actual adult in certain situations. “If you look too young to be taken seriously, and then on top of that you sound unsure, then you’re not going to be taken seriously,” says Valorie Burton, a personal and executive coach,and author Successful Women Speak Differently. Focusing on your breathing is the first step in banishing any habits of speech that can make you sound less mature and experienced. “Literally just taking a breath and lowering you voice tone can give you more of the sound of authority,” says Burton. “That also forces you to speak more slowly, which can convey a sense of gravitas.”

Remember to say their name.

Getting the respect of everyone from your supervisor’s assistant to the contractor remodeling your bathroom requires paying the same respect in kind. A simple way to let others know that they’re seen and heard is to address them by name at the beginning and ending of an interaction, says Amanda Sutton, founder of a public relations and branding company in Canada. “Even if it’s only for a brief moment, they’ve noted that you had the wherewithal to not only learn their name, but to address them directly, whether dropping a stack of papers at their desk, or using it in your first greeting,” Sutton says. “There is an element of ‘being taken care of’ and maturity in this gesture.”

Put away your phone.

Fidgeting with your phone or constantly checking your text messages when you’re ordering that skinny flat white or pricing new flooring at the Home Depot doesn’t convey that you are a Very Important Person with many things to do. Instead, it makes you look flighty and distracted and it can be downright insulting, says Towne. “Keeping your eyes glued to your phone fails to convey that your words should be taken seriously. It tells people they are less important than whatever else you are doing,” she says.

For goodness sake, stop saying “sorry” already!

Women in particular tend to undermine their sense of authority by prefacing their request for assistance with apologies or excuses. “It's so easy to use apologies as a crutch when asking someone in power—a boss, senior coworker, landlord—for a favor,” says Emily Burton, a marketer for mobile app developer Fueled. “But that actually works against you and reinforces your sense of inferiority. Instead, calmly explain what you need and why, proving that you're informed, composed, and worth that person's time.”