How to be confident
Some people seem to be always strong, confident and there is a winning aura around them that we identify as confidence.
In order to be confident, you need to feel, look, sound and act confident.
But what is confidence all about?
Is confidence an innate trait we are born with, or is it a skill we can learn to master?
My answer is even if you do not feel confident right now, you can learn how to be confident.
You are what you think you are
There are some people who are naturally confident. Everything around them seem to speak success because they think confidence. They feel positive about themselves and they go for what they want. They see their mistakes as momentary setbacks or feedback on how to do things right next time.
The magic tool to obtain and be anything you want is focus. The sentence “what you focus on becomes your reality” is a fundamental truth. What we often do not realise is that our reality also influences the world outside us, and that means how others perceive us.
If we believe we are goofy, we will be knocking constantly things over and moving awkwardly, so that people will start noticing and thinking we are goofy.
When we focus on what we are afraid of, unconsciously we make it happen because we concentrate our attention on that. What we fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it will reinforce our belief about ourselves.
Years ago my ex boss was having a hard time getting along with her own boss. She was feeling demotivated and undermined every time she had to deal with her superior, and she was convinced her boss thought she was an incompetent.
One day it just happened I saw one of their meetings from behind a glass door. Her boss was standing nice and tall towering her, and overpowering her with his presence, whilst my boss’s body language was submissive and uncomfortable. Her head was constantly bowed, she was not making eye contact, and all her body was close and visibly tense. Her face had a sort of grimace as she did not want to be there.
Anyone could see she was not confident in handling the relationship with him. When I told her my observations, her surprise made me understand that she was not aware that her body language was giving her feelings away.
Remember that you can only change what you are aware of, so the first step is to observe how others react when you shift your posture and adjust your body language according to the feedback you receive.
Techniques to be more confident
I am a big fun of the philosophy “fake it until you make it“, because it works.
You cannot wait until you magically find your confidence back around the corner. It ain’t gonna happen. In order to make something happen, you need to act on it.
Take actors for example. How can they look so believable when they act like someone they are not? Because they act like they are, and they do it and redo it until their behaviour becomes authentic.
Here is a couple of useful tips on how to improve our physical presence.
1. Improve your posture
Observe somebody you know that appears confident and strong to you. They normally stand nice and tall, their shoulders are relaxed and they look at ease. The way they move, sit or walk is effortless and fluid.
The secret here is to release any tension and shake it off. If your mind is relaxed, your body will relax. And the good news is that it works also the other way around, so if you are physically relaxed, your mind will follow suit.
Practice in front of the mirror pushing the shoulders back and shake them every time you feel they become tense. Focus on that, repeat and repeat, and it will become automatic.
2. Make eye contact
When you make eye contact, you show people that you listen and you pay attention to what they say.
The secret is to hold the gaze for a couple of seconds and not to start staring, because being stared at makes anyone feel uncomfortable.
It takes literally a couple of seconds and then take you gaze away. And do it again. And again.
A confident person looks at people in the eyes. A timid person shies away from doing so.
A wide and honest smile is charming and disarming. People cannot resist smiling back and feeling at ease with someone smiling at them.
4. Do not fidget
Your hands need to stay along your body or in any case on the table. Avoid playing with things like pens, or even worse, your mobile. It makes you look impatient, distracted, bored and insecure.
5. Be authentic
When you talk to people, the first rule is to listen. The second one is to ask questions. The third one is to be authentic.
We all have an innate detector for BS, and be considered phoney is the last thing you want. It is very difficult to recover from being considered fake.
If you cannot find anything positive to say, return to the first rule.
If the person in front of you does not speak anymore, go directly to the second rule.
6. Learn to modulate your voice
Your voice is as important as your body language. The tone of voice, the speed of your speech and the intonation are fundamental.
Want and example? Remember when your mum used that particular tone of voice you knew straight away you were in trouble. I bet it works even now.
We can evoke particular emotions just with the right tone. You want to be sweet? Lower your voice, your tone and slow down.
You want to deliver urgency? Raise the tone a bit, keep your voice steady and speed up your speech.
The way you say things is much more important that the content.
There are many things we can do to be more confident, but the most important is paying attention to our self talk. If we are gentle and kind to ourselves, and we believe we can be confident, slowly being confident will become a habit.