How to Look and Sound Confident—Even When You’re Not
When you look and sound confident, you feel confident, and confidence communicates competence. Consider the reverse situation: how you are when you’re not feeling confident. Your voice wavers. You hem and haw. You “um” and “uh.” You look away. You hunker into yourself. And in doing these things, you give the signal, as loud and clear as if you posted it on a billboard, that you’re unsure of yourself.
But that’s not all. When you lack confidence, you tend to overexplain your actions. You respond immediately to criticism. You sound defensive. You may also be quick to blame others, seeking to deflect responsibility for things for which you are indeed responsible. The worst part is that the things you do that make you look and sound like you lack confidence reinforce that very lack of confidence. So the biggest contributor to a lack of confidence is . . . a lack of confidence.
The issue of looking and sounding confident often comes up in the context of public speaking. To sound more confident when you present, project your voice, as if you’re speaking to the back row. Speak a little more slowly than you would otherwise to avoid the tendency to speed up when giving a presentation.
As you speak, stand tall so that you look confident. Don’t fidget. Don’t slouch. Don’t sway. Don’t wander around as you speak. And unless you’re giving out bad news, look like you’re happy to be there. These tips are relevant not just when giving a presentation, but in many contexts in which confidence may be lacking, such as speaking up at a meeting, being interviewed, and even talking on the phone.
If you’re nervous in any of these situations, whatever you do, don’t admit it. Confess that you’re nervous and listeners will start looking for signs of nervousness—and they’ll see such signs even if there aren’t any. Any “um” or twitch or deep breath will be taken as evidence of nervousness. Even after you’re finished speaking, don’t confess to having been nervous. If people saw you as confident, let them retain that impression.
Having given hundreds of presentations, my own technique for projecting confidence is simple: When I feel nervous, I pretend I’m playing the part of someone who’s confident. Try it. It works!