How to Appear Confident … even when you’re not

Confidence

 

Confidence is key in this western society that we live in. Jobs, relationships, perceptions and self-esteem can all be made or broken by how much confidence we exude or don’t. Many times, we simply are not confident. We might be nervous, feel inferior, not feel knowledgeable or unprepared and worry that we just don’t fit the bill. Even though we may feel that way, it doesn’t mean we can’t present ourselves confidently.  Even just looking the part despite not feeling it, can get us through until, eventually, our artificial sense of confidence turns into the real thing. “Fake it ’til you make it”, I like to say. Here are some tips to help you come across as confident even when you don’t feel it.

1. Posture – The way you stand can say so much about you.  If you aren’t feeling your best, slouching, hiding behind long hair or leaning against the wall can be a direct message that you don’t want to put yourself out there.  Stand or sit straight with your head up and your shoulders back.  Pretend you have a string that is tied to middle of your head and a puppeteer is holding you up by the string – straight and looking forward.  Good posture sends the message that you know what you are doing and you are comfortable with where you are.

2. Eye Contact – Always make eye contact when you are talking to or listening to someone.  If people can’t see your eyes when you are talking to them they may not feel you’re trustworthy.  Shifty eyes will make people nervous.  No eye contact suggests you don’t believe you are good enough to talk to or worse, you don’t believe the other person is good enough to talk to.  If you don’t make eye contact when someone else is talking, it may give the impression that you aren’t listening or you are not interested in what that person has to say.  Not only can it destroy your confidence believability, it may keep you out of the networking loop.

3.  Admit when you don’t know something – I’ve had people tell me that they will pretend to understand or know about something that they have no clue about just so they don’t come across as stupid or naive.  You are not expected to know everything.  Asking for information to learn something or just plain saying “I don’t know the answer to that,” shows that you are comfortable enough to show you are human.  This, believe-it-or-not, is confidence.

4.  Smile – The best thing you can do for almost any situation is to just smile.  Especially when you aren’t feeling confident.  Physiologically, smiling will send signals to your body to relax and help you take control of your thoughts and feelings.  Smile long enough and you can trick your body into thinking your are happy even if you aren’t.  It will signal to others that you are happy or experiencing a “light” moment and are, therefore, approachable.  When people approach you to spark conversation or make inquiries, it will make you feel confident.  And the greatest thing about smiling is that it’s contagious.

5.  Wear your power outfit – Everyone should have a power outfit.  That one outfit that makes you feel like you can take on the world.  You look good and feel good in it and you can’t help but feel confident.  I have a pant-suit that I only wear when I’m presenting to large and perhaps, corporate, audiences.  It makes me feel tall (I’m not), put-together, attractive and stylish.  Even if I’m sweating buckets and am incredibly nervous, I know that I look like I mean business when I’m in my power outfit.  And sometimes, just putting on that outfit is enough to put me into full-fledged confidence mode.

6.  Firm hand shake –  A firm handshake is a must.  It may be a bit cliche but when meeting people, if the grip isn’t one with some fortitude, it can make or break an introduction and thus, a relationship.  A firm handshake (one coupled with eye contact *see point #3) suggests that you know who you are and you are ready to make a new and possibly great connection.  Even, when not feeling the power of a confident mood, that firm handshake at least gives that message at the start so you can catch up with confidence later.  Caution, however, that the handshake isn’t too strong.  A bone-crushing handshake can give the impression that you mean to dominate and that does not, a great introduction make.

7.  Prepare – If you have an event or an opportunity approaching where you are worried that your confidence may not be in full order, the best thing to do is prepare.  If it’s a networking event, read-up on who is expected to be there; what is the focus of the event; are there questions you can prepare ahead of time so that you are armed with information for those awkward silences.  Perhaps check out what is trending on twitter before heading in so that you have some quick conversation-starters like “Did you catch that headline about …?”  If you are going into a situation where you will be in the spotlight, go over your notes or ask a friend to prepare questions to ask you.  The more preparation you can do ahead of time, the more confident you feel and the more confident you will come across.

Should you be in situation where you’d rather just curl up and sit in the corner, these tips will hopefully help not only put you into the centre of the room, but help you to feel comfortable being there.  Are there other ideas that you use to help you feel confident even if you aren’t?

Vicki Noels-Cornish

An effervescent personality with a passion for courtesy,manners and civility. Leadership Consultant specializing in image, leadership and career development

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2 Discussion to this post

  1. Great post. This one needs to be required reading for everyone because most of us are going to walk into literally hundreds of situations over a lifetime where we are not feeling confident and need to project it .

    And if all of your tips are followed, confidence will follow!

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