There’s no question that confidence is a desirable quality to have. In so many aspects of life – romantic relationships and business especially – confidence is extremely important. No matter what the quality of your work is or how much you have to offer a would-be romantic partner, if you lack confidence, others are less likely to see it.
The funny thing is, though, nearly all of us admit to feeling insecure at times. Even the ones you’d least expect – leaked emails during the Sony hack revealed George Clooney didn’t sleep for 30 hours once worrying about bad reviews for one of his films. And this is a guy who won an Academy Award (and married Amal Clooney)!
Therefore, while it’s totally normal to lack confidence at times, it’s nearly always helpful if you don’t. So, here are some tips on how to appear more confident – which will hopefully be the first steps to truly having unshakeable self-esteem.
There are few things that have more of an impact on how other people view you than your posture. Perhaps even more importantly, though, is that studies have shown that your posture also has a huge impact on you and the way you feel.
Simple tricks like putting your shoulders back and standing up tall with your arms uncrossed can make you look more authoritative and knowledgeable. Making yourself seem smaller, by hunching or crossing your arms, by contrast, makes you look like you’re thinking ‘don’t look at me!’
The thing is, as much as we all like to think we’re super advanced from our days as humble cavemen, the reality is quite different. Once upon a time, the tallest and bravest were those that succeeded – so we have thousands of years of biology making us equate open posture with strength. It works so well that even a few power poses in the privacy of your own office (maybe not in a crowded boardroom) can give you an instant boost, according to Amy Cuddy’s famous TED talk.
Interestingly, eye contact has different connotations in different cultures. In some Asian countries, including Japan and China, too much eye contact can be considered rude or inappropriate. However, in most Western countries, a lack of eye contact can tell someone you’re shy, and at worst, downright sneaky.
So, with only a few exceptions, keeping eye contact with whoever you are speaking to is a good idea. Not only will keeping eye contact make you seem more confident and less cagey, it will also make people feel like you are truly listening to them.
SPEAK SLOWLY, AND WITH AUTHORITY
Unfortunately, one of the biggest giveaways of a lack of confidence is also one of the most common. Plenty of people can relate to having been asked to give a presentation, only to realise that 3 minutes into a ten-minute presentation, you’ve a) forgotten to breathe and b) already covered nearly all of your material. It’s normal when presented with a stressful situation to want to rush through it like a runaway freight train. Unfortunately, it’s not great for appearing confident.
If you’re feeling nervous or lacking confidence, the two most important things are to breathe normally and speak slowly. To you, it may feel like you are speaking unnaturally slow – however in reality, you are likely speaking at a normal pace. Even if you are speaking a bit slower than normal, that is likely to give you an air of authority, as opposed to an air of terror. I know which one I’d prefer.
Another good tip is to try to avoid the “ahs” and “ums”. It’s not a huge deal, as most people don’t really notice you’re saying them, however if you try to replace them with pauses, you will sound more confident. It also gives you a chance to stop and collect your breath and thoughts.
It’s not always a bad thing to apologise, especially if you have actually screwed up and need to take accountability for it. Unfortunately, that situation generally accounts for the vast minority of situations where someone starts saying “sorry”. You don’t need to apologise for every little thing that goes wrong, especially if it’s unlikely anyone noticed or it wasn’t your fault.
Similarly, a good tip is to use “thank you” instead of “sorry”. It makes the other person feel good, and stops you from looking like the one to take the blame. For example, say there’s been a delay sending a product to a customer. Thank them for their patience, rather than apologising for the delay. As above, this isn’t true for every situation – sometimes you do need to ‘fess up and say sorry – but keep the apologies to when they’re reallyneeded, and you’ll appear much more confident.
REALISE THAT OTHER PEOPLE DON’T PAY AS MUCH ATTENTION TO YOU AS YOU THINK THEY DO
We’ve all got those embarrassing moments that come back to us and make us cringe – often at about 3am when we’re trying to sleep. For the most part, they’re from years. Do you think your high school buddy will remember the day you accidentally called your English teacher Mum ten years ago? No way!
People, on the whole, are not as observant as we think they are. They’re unlikely to notice your little slip ups and they certainly won’t remember for long. They’re too busy worrying about their own! So, don’t worry too much or beat yourself up if something doesn’t quite go to plan. Notch it up to experience and persevere with our tips – you’ll be looking and feeling more confident in no time.