Which of the following categories do you fit into?
- I look and feel confident all of the time
- I usually feel confident, but I’m not sure if I come across that way
- My confidence goes up and down depending on the situation, but I at least want to come across as confident all the time!
If you answered a) then, I’ve got to be honest, don’t bother reading the rest of this. Just carry on as you are.
If you answered b) or c) then this is for you!
For those who answered b) – it’s such a shame when people are confident deep down but don’t show up that way consistently. Below are some super-practical hacks to help you own it.
For those who answered c) – developing your internal feelings of self-confidence can take time (and work) and it’s outside the scope of these 700 words to comprehensively cover that off. You should make it a high priority to do that work though because confidence is rocket fuel for your personal and professional development. However, in the meantime, you can at least quickly and easily learn some ways to externally present as confident.
So, let’s begin.
- Be a T
Whether you are sitting, standing or walking, you want to visualise your torso as a letter T. Sit or stand up straight so you are as tall as you can be. Then you want to also be as broad as you can be, by making sure your shoulders are not hunched, that you have your shoulders back and chest out. It should look both natural and strong. You want to take up space.
- Cut your Hedge
Hedging words are words we use to ‘hedge our bets.’ We use them to soften the opinion or request we are making.
Hedging words are words like: Just, but, quickly, sort of, possibly, be ok, perhaps, maybe…
We use them in phrases like:
“Maybe we could possibly explore the idea of an alliance, but that’s just my idea.”
“Just a thought… I sort of think…”
“Would it be okay if I quickly add an idea…?”
“We possibly need to…”
When you use these phrases, you often modify, qualify or otherwise reduce your ideas and your self. If you are frequently using hedging words, it’s a sign of low confidence because it suggests you have little faith in the value of your idea or your right to voice it.
Instead, just speak your opinion plainly and without pulling back by hedging. Be certain. You might not be certain that your opinion is right, but you are certain that it is valid and valuable without qualification. Someone who is confident knows that they and their opinions are valuable, so they don’t make themselves smaller physically or verbally.
- Slow & Low
When you are in a high-stress conversation or just one where you want to appear confident, try the mantra “Slow & Low.” This relates to the pace and pitch of your voice. Try to slow your speech right down and lower your pitch. You don’t need to do this the whole time you talk, but if you are confident, you will be able to do it at times.
When we are stressed, flustered or just not feeling confident it’s easy to talk really fast and get very high-pitched. Those who can remain calm under pressure and have the confidence to hold their own can speak using their lower register, to gain more attention and exude calm confidence.
Slowing down the pace of your speech requires the confidence to ‘take up space’ in the conversation (there’s that phrase again!) Just as the confident and kick-arse people take up space physically (Be a T) and don’t make themselves smaller through the use of hedging words (Cut Your Hedge), they are also willing take up space in the conversation in terms of time. They don’t feel like they need to rush (and thus minimise) their ideas. They are not longwinded and self-centred, (in fact they are both concise and precise) but they use pauses and slower speech when it’s appropriate.
- Controlled Energy
If you can think of a time when you felt super-confident, you would probably recall having a combination of control (maybe a feeling of “I’ve got this”) and energised (“let’s go get it!”). People who are confident are often high-energy, and this can be a sign of their high motivation and commitment, but what’s important is that this energy is also controlled: that they are relaxed and unflappable at the same time. This means controlling things like your hand gestures, your body movements, your emotions and your stress.
- Prize yourself
Before you enter any encounter in which you want to feel confident and be perceived as kick-arse, have a clear answer to this question:
What do I bring that is rare and valuable?
This question encourages you to ‘prize’ what you bring to the situation, transaction or relationship. With the answer to this at the forefront of your mind, your language, tone and stance will all be stronger.
With over 15 years of experience with tens of thousands of people, Michelle has designed and delivered award-winning behaviour change and leadership development programs for companies like Microsoft, Australia Post and American Express. She is director and co-founder of the learning and development consultancy People of Influence, specialising in leadership and team development.