How confident do you consider yourself to be? Now for the second question: How confident do you think you appear? Confidence is an extremely important skill because research shows that people who appear more confident at work are perceived to be more competent; they are more likely to be noticed and considered for promotion or leadership opportunities. But the thing about confidence is that it is more than just how you feel. Actually, how you look and how you appear to others plays a significant role. That’s why I asked the second question.
In this article, I’ll share five research-backed and easy tricks to help you look more confident in how you present yourself, which will make you appear more confident to others and, ultimately, make you feel more confident and powerful at work.
Some people claim that confidence is something you either have or don’t have, but this is simply not true. Confidence is a skill that can be developed, and one factor is unquestionably how confident you actually feel. According to studies, confidence boosts productivity and encourages risk-taking, both of which are necessary for career advancement.
Confident people are also more likely to be promoted than those who are doing the work and may have accomplished more but aren’t perceived as confident. And this is where the second part of the equation comes into play; it’s not just about how confident you feel, though feeling confident is crucial, but also about how confident you appear. In fact, it is likely that appearing confident is more important than feeling confident because you could have all the confidence in the world, but if you’re naturally soft-spoken and reserved, you won’t be able to project the confidence required to get noticed.
So, let’s dive into the five research-backed and easy-to-implement tricks for exuding self-assurance that you can use every day.
When you’re feeling insecure, your body naturally assumes a low-power posture; you feel like shrinking, and your body does as well. So the first tip, which should go without saying but is always worth repeating, is to maintain a tall and powerful posture. Here’s how to get started:
First, get as tall as you can. As a child, my dance teacher used to tell me to imagine a string attached to the centre of my head and someone pulling it upwards.
Second, pull your shoulder blades as far down and back as possible. This may seem strange at first if you spend the majority of your days hunched behind a computer or on your phone, but you will get used to it.
Third, lift your chin and look straight ahead, making a conscious effort to keep your gaze in front of you. This instantly projects confidence. According to a 2010 study conducted by Harvard and Columbia University researchers, closed body language such as slouching and hanging your head lowers testosterone, raises cortisol (the stress hormone), and makes you feel less powerful. Open body language, such as what I just mentioned, has the opposite effect, making you exude confidence, authority, and authority.
2. Smile More
Studies have shown that smiling makes you happier and instantly improves your mood. Why? Because your brain throws a little feel-good party every time you smile. Smiling actually activates the muscles in your face, signalling your brain to release endorphins (happy hormones).
Christine Clapp, a public speaking expert at George Washington University, explains the importance of smiling on both the speaker and those listening. “Smiling not only makes your voice more pleasant to listen to, but it also conveys confidence, making you appear friendly, approachable, and composed,” she says.
3. Speak Slowly & Clearly
I’ve noticed that when people are nervous or under pressure, such as giving an important presentation at work, they speed up their speech. You may have noticed this in yourself; speaking quickly reflects nerves, feelings of insecurity, and sometimes a lack of self-control.
Speaking in a controlled, relaxed, and composed manner, with strategic pauses when necessary, ensures that people perceive you as confident and can actually keep up with what you’re saying.
4. Walk Confidently
Did you know that the way you walk can project confidence?
Studies on biological motion patterns, which examine how people walk, have discovered distinct differences in people’s movement based on their emotions. This influences how others perceive them.
A 1995 study published in the journal of ethology and sociobiology discovered that walking faster leads to a perception of higher status.
So, if you’re a slow walker or your footwear or attire prevents you from walking with purpose and pace. Perhaps it’s worth experimenting with something new to see if it gives you more freedom in how you move.
Another thing to keep in mind is that women often take smaller steps than men, partly because we’re physically smaller, but also because it’s just something we do.
Striding with slightly longer steps demonstrates that you’re focused and know where you’re going, which conveys confidence. This does not imply taking such large strides that you appear ridiculous, but simply altering your walk subtly can have a significant impact on how you are perceived.
5. Maintaining Eye Contact
This is a simple but effective trick, so I’ve included it as a reminder.
According to Lillian Glass (a body language expert and author of the Body Language Advantage), “Strong eye contact is the single greatest indicator of confidence, it establishes a connection, it shows sincerity, it projects self-esteem, assertiveness and confidence”.
In addition, when combined with some of the other techniques I’ve already discussed, appropriate eye contact can make you appear more likeable, attractive, attentive, trustworthy, and memorable.
So, when you’re at work in meetings, interacting with coworkers, or conversing with your manager, make sure you’re using eye contact effectively; it has a lot of power. When using a virtual setting, such as a video conferencing platform, this simply means looking directly into the camera when speaking. Those watching and listening to you will perceive you to be making direct eye contact.
So there you have it: five research-based tricks to make you appear more confident, which will ultimately increase your perceived competence.