Confidence gives you an advantage in any situation and, according to my research (interviewing 90+ speakers), it is one of the top three characteristics of an effective speaker. You’re more likely to ace an interview, charm your date, convince your child to eat their vegetables or persuade an audience when you’re sure of yourself. In fact, just looking like you’re confident is often enough to make you more persuasive and successful.
Plus, research shows that our behavior tends to shape our thinking, so acting assertive will help make your doubts and fears melt away.
Even if the thought of confronting your boss or speaking in public makes you nervous, you can still appear calm and collected. Try these tips for training yourself to look confident under pressure.
Use Body Language to Help You Look Confident
Adjust your posture.
The way you hold yourself and move around plays a big role in determining your mood and how others see you. Make it a habit to sit and stand with your back straight and your shoulders back. Distribute your weight evenly and tighten your abdominal muscles. Check out this article by Cindy Ashton that talks more about posture and how it affects how your audiences perceive you.
Make eye contact.
Hold your head and your gaze up. If you find it uncomfortable to look someone in the eye, try focusing on different areas of their face for a couple of seconds at a time. The results will be about the same. When on stage, you can also look at the centerpiece of a table and the people sitting around it think you’re looking at them. Read this post for more eye contact tips.
Open your body up.
Overall, think in terms of taking up whatever space is available to you. Uncross your arms and legs. Plant your feet about a foot apart. Point your toes slightly outward. Lean toward someone while they’re talking to you. When on stage, most postures that make you look bigger make you look more authoritative and confident. Read this article about open body posture for more information.
If you tend to move faster when you’re nervous, experiment with doing the opposite. Make your gestures and speech more deliberate and relaxed. Be sure to include pauses and moments of silence for effect, which will also help slow you down.
A happy face looks more confident and attractive. Think about how you feel when someone beams at you and share that joy with others. No one wants to watch a frowning speaker.
For more tips on body movements that you want to avoid, check out my video “Lose Distracting Body Movements.”
Other Ways to Look Confident
Spruce up your image.
Careful grooming reminds yourself and others that you’re worth caring about. Treat yourself to a makeover. Change your hairstyle or buy some flattering clothes. Get a manicure. Buy a new purse or attaché case. When you look the part, you eventually feel the part.
It’s easier to look and feel confident when your body is strong and limber. Find a variety of physical activities you enjoy and will want to maintain.
Use your breath to calm and center yourself. Lengthening your exhalations helps you to feel braver and manage stress.
Upgrade your communications by cutting the “ums” out of your vocabulary. Replace those fillers with a strategic silent pause instead.
Pay attention to the things you like about yourself and others. Make a list of the events and experiences that you’re grateful for. Being upbeat will help you to appreciate your strengths and aim higher. And, focusing on something positive about yourself right before stepping on stage can give you a quick confidence boost.
Create a mantra.
Your self-talk can undermine your efforts or boost your sense of self-worth. Find some words and phrases that lift you up. Post them somewhere you can see them and repeat them to yourself a few times each day.
For more tips on how to boost your confidence from the outside in, check out this video.
It’s natural to feel nervous in high-stakes situations like business presentations and some social situations. The more you practice looking confident, the more effective you’ll become at making a positive impression on others and strengthening your belief in yourself.