Building confidence, with science!
Have you ever been in a situation where you wish you have exuded more confidence? A sales presentation? An interview? A performance review? Asking someone out on a date? We all have. I like to think of myself as fearless in crowds and I usually don’t hesitate to talk to someone I don’t know. Once in a while though, we all get in a situation we know we can handle but something gets in the way. We find excuses for our hesitation and it’s over before it began.
Here are some of the ways you can overcome that to nail that interview, get the date, make the sale…
Act confident. No, really.
I know this sounds stupid. I really do. But there’s actually science to back up that it works. If you go into a situation thinking about acting confidently, you will automatically start acting more confident. Not only are you thinking about that, instead all the reasons you could potentially (but likely won’t actually) fail, but you’re telling your brain that you should be more confident and it will start to align with that.
Practice it! Go to the grocery store and when you walk down an aisle, ask someone about an item their picking off the shelf. It doesn’t matter what it is. “Have you had that before? I’ve been thinking about trying it but I’m not sure how I should cook it.” Their response doesn’t really matter. You just broke the ice. This is a harmless way to practice exuding confidence.
On a side note, not knowing something doesn’t mean you can’t be confident. Having the strength to admit it, and that you want to learn is a sign of strength. This exercise is more powerful than you think. And you might end up with a really tasty dinner out of it!
No one wants to talk to the miserable looking guy at the party, not even the other miserable people who don’t want to be there. When you go into a new situation, do it with a smile. I think about something that genuinely makes me smile and I naturally smile. Once you get the first smile down, it’s easier to keep it going. Practice in the mirror at home. You definitely don’t want a fake looking smile. That’s almost worse than not smiling at all.
Have some pep in your voice. Are you just reciting lines or are you actually trying to say something. Having a more animated voice will make whatever you say more interesting and people will be more likely to stay engaged.
This is a biggie. You have something really compelling to say, but if your hands are in your pockets and you’re looking at someone’s feet, they’ll never believe you. Keep eye contact. Relax your arms and shoulders. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Look at any portrait or statue of a great leader notice how they’re standing.
Dressing the part
Wearing clothes that make you feel good can do wonders for your confidence. I have on outfit I used to wear to all of my interviews that made me feel invincible. I got every job I interviewed for while wearing it. I also recommend this to all of my clients when I photograph them for the same reason.
Having well fitting clothes, that aren’t stained or wrinkled, is a must. Tennis shoes with slacks or jeans should be avoided. Actually, it should never even be considered an option. When you go shopping for a new outfit, check out the samples they put together on the mannequins in the store. Marketing teams work hard to find the most pleasing ensembles in their collection, and you can use that to your benefit. Let the experts choose for you. Just make sure it’s not too far outside your comfort zone, unless your comfort zone is jeans and running shoes…
Speak like you own the room
Raise your voice. Make sure everyone can hear you. But don’t shout. That’s rude. If you mumble and speak too softly, no one will listen. It’s too much work for them and they have no reason to invest more effort than necessary. Being able to project is SOOOOO important. Practice going to a noisy bar with a friend and just chat for a while. Get used to that feeling. Then adjust your volume accordingly in rooms less cacophonous.
Enjoy the silence. You don’t need an ‘um’ or ‘uh’ or ‘ah’ between words or phrases. Having a natural pause between thoughts gives people time to process what you’re saying. And the little sounds you inject to fill space show your own discomfort with silence. It does nothing for the listener. So focus on avoiding those things. One thing that will help is to slow down your speaking. Confident speakers speak slowly and deliberately. They don’t have to rattle off as many words as they can before the audience ultimately loses interest. Pace yourself and they’ll stick with you. Check out some Ted Talks if you want to see what I mean.
Know when to shut up
The last thing I’ll cover is how to listen. We’ve already gone over a few of the key elements. Make eye contact so they know you’re paying attention. Don’t cross your arms or put your hands in your pockets. Having closed off body language shows that you’re being less receptive. And most importantly, don’t talk. I know it sounds obvious, but seriously. Don’t say anything. They need to know that you’re hearing them, not just waiting for your turn to speak again.
Get out and practice. Everywhere. The grocery store. The mall. In line at Starbucks. The restroom is not a good place, but just about everywhere else is an opportunity waiting. Remember what I said in the networking article? It’s all connected. Be good to people and give them a genuine reason to listen to you when appropriate, and everything will fall into place.
If you have any other questions about any of this, feel free to ask. I’m here for you.