Ever heard the saying “Fake it ’til you make it?”
Nine times out of ten, this phrase is used in reference to the habit of faking confidence.
The amount of confidence you exude can play a large role in the success you experience in your personal life, in your social life, and in your workplace. And though you may not always feel confident, the ability to act with confidence anyway is a valuable skill to have.
You probably wouldn’t walk into a room and say, “Hey everybody! I’m feeling really confident today!” (And if you would… please don’t).
Rather than annoying your coworkers, you’re likely to find that it’s much more effective (and socially acceptable) to convey confidence through your body language instead.
Body language is the non-verbal communication of your attitude and thoughts. Whether you realize it or not, you are always sending a message via your body language, and it doesn’t take an expert to decipher its meaning.
Some of the most obvious examples of body language are things you see all the time. Someone standing with crossed arms, head tilted back, with eyes pointed towards the ceiling, shifting his weight back and forth while tapping one foot is clearly frustrated and impatient. On the other hand, someone sprawled out on a sofa with her arms above her head and one leg up on a table is obviously comfortable in her environment. Neither of those people would need to explicitly tell you how they’re feeling. You would be able to tell just by looking at them; they are signaling it with their body language.
For several years, I was a 3rd grade teacher of at-risk children in an extremely impoverished neighborhood (in other words, a pretty stressful work environment). One of the ways that teachers in this district are evaluated is through “drop-in” observations, where the school principal comes by at random to watch a lesson. Everything the teacher says and does is written down–verbatim–and evaluated according to an extensive rubric. The results of these observations affect the number of future observations the teacher will receive, as well as how much the teacher will get paid the following school year. To call this “nerve-racking” is an understatement, and during my first year of teaching I was particularly terrified. And yet at every post-conference I attended, I was complimented on my “calm and confidence.” This was shocking to me because I didn’t feel calm or confident at the time. But I used my body language to pretend like I did— and it worked. The next time I had an observation like this, I didn’t have to fake my confidence quite as much because my actual confidence was much higher.
You too can use your body language to convey confidence using the following 4 tips.
1. Eye Contact
One of the most obvious “tells” of insecurity is the unwillingness to make eye contact. Avoiding eye contact indicates to someone that you are either uncomfortable or have something to hide. You don’t want to make creepy eye contact either, though– meet the person’s eyes when they are speaking to you or you are speaking to them, and maintain a normal blinking pattern. If the conversation includes multiple people, switch between making eye contact with each of them instead of focusing on one person. Eye contact is the most important characteristic of confident body language.
Think of some of the most confident people you know. How do they position themselves? Confident people hold their heads up high and stand up straight, ready to face whatever comes at them. A posture of confidence is not stiff; it is relaxed and allows for plenty of movement. Hunching over, keeping your head down, crossing your arms, and folding into yourself are signs of fear, shame, and insecurity. Take note of how you hold yourself when you are nervous or uncomfortable, and make an effort to stand normally in these situations instead. It can be helpful to ask close family or friends who have spent a lot of time with you what they notice about your behavior in these situations so that you can be more aware of it in the future.
In addition to having a relaxed, open posture, confident people are comfortable moving around. Make sure you understand the difference between “moving around” and fidgeting– nervous tics such as messing with your hair, pacing, twisting an earring, 0r fiddling with a lanyard or the buttons on your shirt are not indicators of confidence. Stiffness, such as keeping your hands clenched tightly in fists or shoved deep into your pocket, indicates discomfort. When watching someone giving a speech, it is clear they are nervous if they clutch the podium or their notes and rarely let go. Confident body language includes the use of hand gestures, animated facial expressions, and other natural movements that are appropriate for the situation at hand.
4. Facial Expressions
For some, facial expressions can be the most difficult aspect of body language to control. It can be easy to reveal exactly what you are thinking and feeling on your face. But with practice, you can learn to maintain facial expressions that exhibit confidence regardless of the situation.
First, confident people smile because they believe in their ability to handle any situation, and their lack of insecurity allows them to enjoy themselves. When you are nervous or uncomfortable, you smile less frequently, if at all. Making sure to smile (when appropriate) will give you the appearance of confidence.
Some things a confident person doesn’t do include:
- Pursing his lips
- Biting his lip
- Blinking rapidly or unnaturally
- Clenching her jaw
Think about which of these things you find yourself doing when feeling nervous and focus on maintaining a neutral facial expression instead, and be sure to smile when appropriate.
The most confident people you know are probably not as confident as they seem. Most successful people have discovered the truth in the saying “Fake it ’til you make it.” Learning how to use your body language to convey confidence–even when you aren’t feeling it– will allow you to develop actual confidence as you continue to experience success.
Share your best “fake it ’til you make it” stories in the comments!