“I want to learn how to get a more confident body language. I don’t know how to stand when I’m talking to someone, or how to fit, it what gestures to use.”
Your body language makes up 55% of your total communication.1 No matter what words we use, our body language is what determines if we come off as confident. So how do you get a confident body language?
Maintain a good posture with your chest up and your gaze horizontal. Avoid being too rigid in your body or crossing or hiding your arms. Be comfortable with taking up space and being in the center of the room. Maintain eye contact and avoid fiddling with your hands. Face people directly.
In the following steps, we’ll go through how to do this in practice.
1. Maintain a confident posture
To get a confident posture, hold your head horizontal and stand up straight, like if you had an invisible thread running through your spine and head, lifting you up. Let your chest move slightly forward and up as a result of this thread. Make sure that your chin is pointing slightly downward.
Hunching over, keeping your head down, crossing your arms, and folding into yourself can be signs of fear, shame, or 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.
This video explains how you can strengthen your upper back so that you don’t slouch even when you don’t pay attention to your posture.
2. Practice moving around
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.
3. Make sure that your posture is relaxed and not too rigid
Although you might expect a confident posture to consist of a ramrod-straight back and arms held to either side, this sort of rigid position can appear uptight.
On the other hand, slouching, keeping your head down, and crossing your arms are each a means of making yourself look smaller, which indicates timidity, fear, and insecurity.
While it’s true that you should stand up straight, that doesn’t mean to stand uncomfortably straight. If it feels unnatural, it probably looks unnatural too. Visualize your spine as the backbone that helps you keep a good posture. Your other body parts, like shoulders and arms, are hanging comfortably and relaxed from this backbone.
4. Let your hands show
Keep your hands free and visible.
If your hands are shoved deep into your pockets, you can come off as uncomfortable and people will be wary of you– if you’re uncomfortable, there’s probably a reason… so maybe they should feel uncomfortable too.
It’s also important to pay attention to the nervous habits you may conduct with your hands.
Many people unwittingly mess with their hair, pick at their fingernails, or fiddle with their clothing or accessories when they get nervous. You may not realize you’re doing it, but other people will, and your insecurity will become transparent.
5. Walk with confidence
The way that you walk can indicate how self-confident you feel.
Walking with small steps, walking indecisively or walking faster than others, can come off as insecure.
Taking larger strides and keeping your eyes fixed on your destination, rather than on the floor, can indicate that you are confident both in yourself and in what you’re doing and can give you the appearance of walking with purpose.
6. Be comfortable with taking up space
Taking up more space by standing with feet shoulder-width apart or sitting with your feet planted firmly on the ground is an indicator of confidence. By doing this, you are showing that you know where you belong and you’re not afraid to be seen or to make yourself comfortable in your space.
Don’t over-do it. Maintaining a comfortable stance that takes up an appropriate amount of space for your body size will make you appear much more confident than you will if you stand as though you’re in an overly-full elevator.
7. Maintain eye contact
Avoiding eye contact can signal insecurity or social anxiety. However, eye contact can be over-done. If you feel uncomfortable making eye contact, you can focus on other’s eyebrows or the corners of their eyes. Read our eye-contact guide here.
8. Ways to Convey Confidence Through Body Language
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.
9. 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.
10. Common body language mistakes
Often when we feel uncomfortable in social situations, our body language is affected in the following ways:
- Cross our arms like we want to protect ourselves
- Body rock
- Hunch forward
- Act like we want to leave the conversation
- Feel afraid to take up space
- Sit or stand in a stiff position
- Start fiddling with our phone
Doing this makes us look nervous and shy. Even more importantly: It makes us feel nervous and shy. That’s right. Like I mentioned in the previous chapter, using a nervous body language is causing you to feel more nervous.
If you physically change your body language, your brain will produce hormones that will indeed make you feel more confident.
An Interesting study
In a study, two groups of people were instructed to make a series of difficult decisions.
One of the groups had been instructed to maintain a confident body language during the decision-making. This group felt more confident with the decisions that they had made compared to the test group.
This experiment proved that you actually become a more confident person simply by using a confident body language.
11. How to get an open and outgoing body language
Here’s a complete list of mistakes related to body language and examples on how socially skilled people do it differently. Before we start off, two things:
1. Don’t be overwhelmed by this list – you don’t need to memorize it
Instead, pay attention to if there’s anything you can adjust when it comes to your body language and keep that in the back of your head.
2. If you forget to follow some of the advice on this list, no worries
This is for you to get an overview and see the big picture to help you to get rid of bad habits. It’s your overall appearance that matters. Rather be relaxed and make mistakes than being stiff and afraid of making mistakes.
12. Crossing your arms
People who cross their arms come off as nervous or skeptical. Avoid doing this when you’re talking to someone. Also avoid to “protect your belly” by holding a hand in front of it or holding something you carry in front of it. That’s a clear sign of being uncomfortable
What to do instead:
Let your arms hang relaxed along with your sides.
If you’re holding a glass or a phone or a bag, hold it at waist level with relaxed arms along your sides.
A great habit is to simply put your thumbs in your pockets and let your fingers point downward when you’re talking to someone. That will create a natural, relaxed look.
13. Body rocking
Reporters who are out on the field are taught in journalism class to “anchor” themselves in the ground in front of the camera to convey more confidence and to avoid moving around too much.
If you feel uncertain of where to stand and it feels like everyone is looking at you, throw a mental anchor right where you are and stand still on the spot with your feet at shoulder width.
It can be comforting to know that when you don’t know where to go or what to do, instead of flinching around, just encamp where you currently stand until you know where you’re going next. That will make you look confident and relaxed.
14. Hunching forward
As proved in studies, hunching forward increases cortisol levels in your blood which will make you stressed. It also makes you look submissive and nervous, so try to avoid it.
In a study, test subjects were asked to guess who was the leader of different work teams. It turned out that they didn’t pick the actual leader, but most often chose one of the groups with the best posture. A good posture automatically signals that you’re confident and it makes you more attractive.
People often make the mistake of leaning backward when they try to improve their posture. Avoid doing that and instead, use the technique below.
15. 5-second posture quick fix
These are the benefits of doing this exercise:
- You will look more confident and attractive.
- People will assume you to be the leader of the group.
- It’s better for your back.
- Your voice will automatically become stronger because now there’s more room for breathing and voice resources.
Stand in front of a mirror and lift your chest upwards (don’t push it forward, just up). Lift it so that you feel a bit of stretch in your belly.
Some things to think about here:
- Keep your chin in and down.
- Keep your hip slightly forward rotated so that your spine remains straight, it’s easy to rotate it backward and that will push your belly out.
- Don’t lift your chest too high. Check in a mirror from the side and hold it where it looks good. When you hold it – memorize the sensation in your belly.
- Whenever you think about it, raise your chest until you feel that feeling you’ve memorized in your belly.
So in summary, with maintained cheek and hip, move your chest up until you feel this slight stretch in your belly.
Your back can hurt a bit before you get used to your new posture. When that happens, give your back some rest.
Practice this whenever your posture comes to mind. It took quite a while for me before I did it permanently. Now, I don’t need to think about it anymore: It has been taking care of by my subconscious. Be prepared to remind yourself time after time for several months before it’s a part of your new permanent posture.
16. Feet direction
If you want to understand someone’s true intent, look at their feet. Their feet almost always point in the direction they subconsciously want to go.
If a group of people are having a conversation, they will point their feet towards the person they are attracted to or towards the person who they see as the leader of the group. If someone wants to get away from the conversation, their feet are pointed away from the group or towards the exit.
Christoffer Lindgren who’s part of the SocialPro team is exceptionally good at connecting with people. One of the reasons for this is his ability to direct his full attention to the person he’s talking to. You never get the feeling that he has to go somewhere (unless he has to), and that makes him rewarding to talk to.
If you’ve read Pickup advice, you’ve probably heard that you should look like you’re on your way somewhere – at least the first minute or so. If you’re in a situation where it’s not explicitly meant to socialize, say that you start talking to your neighbor in the hallway, it can be a good idea to not instantly point your body straight towards him or her as it can feel too invasive. However, say that you want to create a close connection with your neighbor, make sure to give him or her your full focus after a minute or so.
We are already programmed to do things like this automatically, but sometimes it can be good to reflect upon how we actually behave socially and if we are repeating some mistakes that are easy to fix.
So – to really connect with someone, make that person feel like you have time for him or her and aren’t on your way somewhere else.
Often when we feel a bit uncomfortable talking to someone – perhaps because we don’t know what to say next – we want to get away from the conversation. The other person might mistake that for you not wanting to talk.
Signal that you are interested in continuing the conversation by pointing your feet towards the person.
On the opposite – if you want to end the conversation with someone, pointing away from the conversation and angling your body away will signal that you are about to take off.
17. Taking up space
When we feel uncomfortable, our reptile system makes us attend a body language that’s great for defense and escape. Feet towards the exit – protecting vital organs, sitting straight up instead of leaning backward, tensing our muscles, producing adrenaline and cortisol to act fast and hit hard.
It’s a great system when it comes to avoiding being eaten – it isn’t as good for socializing and making friends.
You have to work against the reptile system to create this backward effect of feeling confident through acting confident. Here’s a good exercise for this purpose:
18. Taking up space-exercise
Say that you’re at someone’s house, in an unknown environment with people you don’t know.
You probably feel stiff and suddenly it feels like you forgot how to even sit in a way that wouldn’t make people think you’re weird.
Think back on how you would sit if it would be in your own sofa together with your best friend, and attend that pose. (Within the social rules of the situation you happen to be in).
It’s probably more relaxed; leaning backward, taking up more space with your arms and legs.
Use this “my own sofa” position whenever you feel tense when sitting.
Except for in situations where there’s an actual risk to be eaten, it’s never wrong to use a relaxed body language. Outgoing people don’t only show that they enjoy the moment. They are also great at mirroring the person they are talking to.
Mirroring is when you in a non-obvious way behave like the person you’re talking to.
Everyone is doing this subconsciously – more or less. Without even thinking about it, you speak with a different jargon and speed to say, your grandma, than with your friends.
20. An interesting experiment
In an experiment, one group of people watched a documentary about senior living, while the other group watched a nature documentary.
Without the test subjects knowledge, the scientists measured how long it took for them to walk the hallway from the video room to the entrance of the facility after the movie.
The group who had seen the documentary about senior living were on average walking slower than the reference group. This experiment shows how mirroring is something we do subconsciously.
With that said, we sometimes forget to adjust how we behave, and that creates a disconnect between us and people we meet.
To get a sense of how mirroring can be the deal breaker when it comes to making friends, let me tell you a story about a guy I know who no one really wanted to hang out with, simply because he always spoke very fast and with a higher energy than anyone else.
This lack of mirroring affected his entire life – he couldn’t connect with people.
As he after a while became aware of this and started to adjust his energy, it was like his social life just switched on in just a few weeks – it became fun to hang out with him.
Mirroring affects not only the social energy level but also your general appearance. If you want to connect with someone, act more like that person.
- Position the other person is standing in or sitting in.
- Jargon; the level of advanced terms, foul language, jokes.
- Social energy level; Talking speed, voice level, general energy level.
- Type of discussion; If someone’s talking about the meaning of life it’s weird to start talking about everyday matters and vice versa.
Naturally, you shouldn’t compromise who you are and only mirror what you’re comfortable with.
21. Final Exercise – Turning nervousness into confidence
An outgoing body language is about looking and feeling comfortable, mirroring the person you’re talking to and showing that you’re into the conversation when you’re talking to someone.
Here’s a great exercise that I used to do a lot.
It’s said that if you are afraid of the dark, the best way to conquer the fear is to stand still in a dark room for a long time. Being scared is energy consuming, and after a while, your body simply won’t have the energy to feel scared anymore. Well, in this exercise we are going to use the same principle but for social situations instead.
Say that you’re in one of those situations where there are people around you and you don’t know what to do, so you pick your phone up just to look busy.
- Next time, instead of picking your phone up, enter a relaxed position like the “my own sofa” position. Or, if you’re standing up, just put your thumbs down your pockets, fingers pointing downwards.
- Actively lower your stress levels by breathing slowly and paying attention to each breath.
- You will after just a minute notice how you are in charge of how you feel – you will experience how you are the one who decides if you want to feel comfortable.
- You will also notice how, as long as you look confident, you don’t need to talk to someone or do something with your phone.
For me, this was a paradigm shift.
I started enjoy feeling relaxed in environments that I know most people think are stressful. It was a relief for me to just stand and feel relaxed in intense social situations: “Nah, screw this nervosity thing. I’m gonna choose to sit here and enjoy it instead.”
Let your confident body language do the talking
Learn body language skills and look as well as feel more attractive in social situations. Make yourself look like the leader of a group and take charge of any social scenario better than before.
Which component of confident body language do you struggle with the most? Share your struggles in the comments– you’re not alone!
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