Confidence is assumed success. Scoring the promotion, making the sale, getting the date, talking to strangers, meeting her parents, giving a presentation or simply being introduced to new people, we’ve grown up knowing successful people are confident and confident people are successful. Confident guys are popular, vocal and fun to hang out with. Their ideas go farther. They move up faster. They are what we all want to be.
But we’re not confident.
Why aren’t we? Self-confidence is just the secure emotion of being comfortable with yourself. Considering that definition, it’s surprising we’re all so unconfident most of the time. When we meet new people, why are we not comfortable with who we are? Most strangers we meet, such as at a party or friends of friends, we know we’re never going to see them again. So why the anxiety?
At work, why don’t we speak up and let our ideas be heard? The only time to feel uneasy about your ideas is if you’re new, unsure about how things work or who’s in charge. But once we’ve settled in we still don’t speak up as much as we’d like. We think we lack confidence because we don’t offer our better idea, and from a third party perspective we’re the people who don’t chime in.
Is confidence like a muscle that represents our strength? Are we either strong — or not? Are more confident people truly “stronger” in personal judgment, ability and power and this is represented by their confidence? Is this to suggest that to be more confident we have to sharpen our skills and grow our experiences?
I don’t think so.
What are the outward visuals of confidence?
Consider self-confidence the same as a sense of humor. Everyone loves funny guys, just take a look at any of the qualities any group of women list in their ideal man. “Sense of humor” always comes out on top. But what does that really mean?
People say you have a sense of humor when you say things that are funny on a regular basis. It’s an entirely external concept. I can’t go around saying that I have a good sense of humor and expect to convince people of that. “Oh hey, I really liked that Andy guy, he said he has a great sense of humor.” No that’s stupid, it’s not how it works. People only say that if I make them laugh.
Self-confidence is the exact same thing. Even the most confident guy in the world who doesn’t display it won’t be thought of as self-confident. So…show people that you’re confident, and people will think you are — even if you know you’re not.
What are the external cues people pick up on that make them determine you’re self-assured and able? It doesn’t matter if your stomach is in knots — externally displaying these three things will have people thinking you’re confident.
Once people think you’re confident. You are. You’ll be more relaxed. You’ll be yourself. You’ll get the promotion and impress strangers.
Walk around like you own the place
Think about the coolest guy in any room you’ve ever been in. I’m talking actually cool, not high-school-I’m-cool-because-I’m-the-quarterback cool. Non-douchey, honest to goodness, everyone loves ‘em cool. You can tell he’s cool just by looking at him.
How? It’s all in body language. I’m not suggesting you walk with a swagger like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. I’m just saying be mindful of what you’re letting your body say about you.
I’m a sloucher. I have been all my life. My girlfriend is constantly pulling back on my shoulders and pushing in on my back. It’s awkward standing tall but now picture the most unconfident, dorky loser you can, and I guarantee you part of that stereotype includes a guy with a witty t-shirt all slouched over.
But try standing up tall — not awkward I’ve got a stick in my butt tall — but natural head up, shoulders back tall. You feel more confident instantly. Just imagine what you’re saying to everyone else.
My buddy and fellow Primer contributor Robert Fure has a philosophy that no one important ever runs to get where they’re going. Because if they’re truly important, whoever is waiting for him won’t start without him. It kind of sucks when you’re waiting for Robert at the movie theater, but it’s an honest observation.
A CEO never runs across the street to make it to his Monday morning meeting on time, they’ll wait for him. Consider that when you’re at a party, talking with your boss or giving a presentation. “Move confidently” simply means relax. Move at a normal pace, don’t hurry to the bar to order your drink and b-line it back to your group of friends, just relax. Loosen up. Try moving in slow motion if it helps you identify with the concept. I don’t care if you’re more nervous then you’ve ever been. SLOW DOWN.
Consider a best man at a wedding reception. The DJ just announced him to come up and give his speech. A nervous guys stands up right away and jets it to the mic stand. If you slow down, take your time to get yourself composed and smile at a few people along the way, you’ll appear more confident than you probably are. And that’s the whole point. Making people think you’re confident, when you’re really not.
Never make someone ask you to repeat something
The only people that have ever asked a Clint Eastwood character to speak up are those that have also been shot in the face. When have you had to ask the president of a company to repeat himself because he’s mumbling? Or when has our ‘coolest guy in the room’ ever had someone at a party not laugh at his joke because he wasn’t speaking loudly enough? Never.
Being confident in how you say something is just as important as being confident in what you’re saying. You might have the funniest joke of the night or the biggest idea for your company in 10 years, but if no one hears you then you might as well as not even thought of it in the first place.
A few years ago I started a new job and and was getting acclimated to all the new faces. There was one guy I’ll never forget. I didn’t have to work with him for my job, so I was never introduced. I didn’t really know what he did, but I knew he was important because you could hear the guy from down the hall.
Every time I saw him in the hallway or passed an office and overheard a meeting he was attending, this guy was in charge. He was loud, not in the obnoxious kind of way, but the way some people’s voices just carry. This fellow seemed nice enough, but he meant business. He spoke up, spoke out, asked questions unabashedly and overall was heard.
The only problem is — I later found out he wasn’t important at all, when I first started. I came to learn that this guy was not much higher than me in a different department, but he quickly climbed the ladder because he was confident with his communication.
This doesn’t mean that he was always right or always had the best ideas, it means he led with his voice. He was able to control meetings and steer conversations because he could communicate effectively.
So — speak up! Your mumbling is holding you back in all parts of your life!
You know that trick everyone always tells you to use when speaking in front of a group? “Talk very slowly, even if it seems too slow, it will seem natural to the audience.”
Same thing goes for speaking up. Don’t worry that you’re going to talk too loud, you won’t.
You might be surprised how better your jokes go over, now that people can hear them.
Look him in the eye like your life depends on it
Have you ever been involved in a salary negotiation? If not, it’s not much different than convincing a warden to let you out of jail early. You have to prove to the person in charge that you’re worthy of the price you’re asking for. Which, as negotiations always go, is lower than what they’re offering.
An unconfident man will never be convincing. If your eyes are darting around the room every time they hold your eye contact for longer than three seconds or ask you a question, you’re not standing your ground. You may be saying “I work 80 hours a week and maintain 30% of our clients” but your eyes sure as hell aren’t.
As Tom Chiarella points out in his Esquire article “The Invisible Grip,” maintaining locked eyes is not the same as staring.
“People don’t like the dumb indifference of a stare. My first attempts at maintaining eye contact were so self-conscious that I took to picking a point on the person’s face–as close to the eyes as possible–and gazing at it as calmly as possible. That was a disaster. I wasn’t looking at people so much as I was at a blemish they happened to know very well.”
If you read a lot of self-help books or blogs they’ll always caution you to “hold eye contact, but be mindful because you may come off as too aggressive or flirty in some cases.” I don’t agree.
As long as you’re relaxed, and a natural distance a part, no normal person is going to be able to hold eye contact with someone they’re not super comfortable with for an aggressive or flirty period of time.
Maintaining eye contact is going to feel uncomfortable, that’s why you’re not doing it right now. That’s okay. That’s the point. You’re saying with your eyes, “I’m so confident in what I’m saying I have no problem looking you straight in the eyes when I say it.”
Think about any movie you’ve ever seen that has a cool guy talking to a girl. He’s utilizing eye contact. You can use the awkwardness of eye contact to your benefit. As long as you’re not being creepy about it, the other person is likely to look away first, and they’re going to recognize this, placing your level of comfort in the situation above theirs.
This isn’t just for salary negotiations and attempts at busting out of prison. You should carry this over to every aspect of your life. Meet a new person? Hold that eye contact. Discussing the cost/benefit analysis of ordering the white desk chairs over the black? You hold that damn eye contact.
These things obviously don’t come naturally, or else we would all be doing them. But as the saying goes “fake it till you make it.”
Don’t let your personal lack of confidence affect how others perceive you. If you use these 3 simple tricks, slowing down, speaking loudly, and holding eye contact longer than you think you should, people will think you’re confident.
Once that happens, something crazy will occur: you’ll be way more confident.
Here’s to you becoming the coolest guy in the room. Good luck!