Do you know how to be confident? Or how to feel powerful and capable in your professional, social and romantic interactions?
There’s a big confidence myth: Confidence is just one of those things that you “have or you don’t.” No way!
I want to shatter that confidence myth and tell you how confidence isn’t something that arrives at birth. It’s a skill, one that can be developed like any other skill, through intentional practice.
Looking for something specific? Skip ahead to a part of this guide:
- How to Look Confident
- How to Speak Confidently
- Confidence and Happiness
- How to be Confident with Social Anxiety
- Walk with Confidence
- Find a Confident Role Model
- Pump-up Routines for Great Confidence
- Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
- Teach Your Brain to be Confident
- How to Actually Act On Your Confidence
- Confidence and Social Media
How to Look and Appear Confident
Let’s start with your looks. And no, I don’t mean your clothes or your hair. This tip is all about your body language.
If you want to get dates, win business, and influence people, you have to prep your confidence both inside and out. Often, we’re focused only on the words we say in emails, in interviews or in conversation. However, the majority of our communication is nonverbal, the how we say something behind the what we say. Nonverbal communication makes up a minimum of 60 percent of our communication ability. So, if you only focus on your words, you are using only 40 percent of your ability. You have to get into the habit of portraying confidence with both your verbal and nonverbal communication.
When you walk into a networking event or your office or a restaurant, do you look like a winner?
This may seem like a strange question, but research from the University of British Columbia makes it clear: We innately get bigger in our bodies when we feel prideful, but get smaller in our bodies when we feel defeated or ashamed. These researchers observed sighted, blind and congenitally blind (blind since birth) athletes in various events of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. They found that expressions of pride (when an athlete won an event) and defeat (when an athlete lost an event) were the same across all three groups. This study proves that our nonverbal responses to pride and defeat aren’t expressions we learn from seeing others win or lose. Instead, they are responses that are coded within us.
To look and feel confident, your body language must show it.
First, the easiest way to look like a winner is to claim territory. Own your body and own the space around you by standing or sitting tall. Keep your arms loose by your side or place one or both hands on your hips. Relax your shoulders down your back and open your chest. These expansive postures will show others that you’re confident and sure of yourself. Be wary of low power postures, such as crossing your arms or turtling your shoulders to your ears as this may signal defeat.
Still not convinced? Research published in Health Psychology found that participants in a mock interview who sat up straight reported a better mood and higher self-esteem compared to their slouched counterparts.
From the study:
“The upright participants reported feeling more enthusiastic, excited, and strong, while the slumped participants reported feeling more fearful, hostile, nervous, quiet, still, passive, dull, sleepy, and sluggish.”
Next, the eyes have it! Confident people know the power of eye gazing. To increase your confidence, be sure to look people in the eye as you are speaking AND as they are speaking. Too often we look away, check our phone or scope out the rest of the room. This is not only rude, but very low confident.
Finally, engage in fronting. Fronting is when you aim your torso and toes toward the person you are speaking with. Nonverbally, this is a sign of respect. When you do this, you look incredibly focused, confident, put together and charismatic. Be sure to always keep your toes and torso aimed at the person you are speaking with.
Action Step: Practice claiming space, making eye contact and fronting in your next conversation.
How to Speak Confidently
Now that you’ve learned how to look confident with your body language, let’s discuss your vocal power.
When you answer the phone and when you start a new conversation, it’s crucial that your voice projects your inner confidence. Often, we make our first impression in our “hello” upon answering the phone. Is your voice helping or hurting your confidence?
Here at Science of People, we did a fascinating experiment on vocal power. We have some incredible tips for you on how you can make your voice sound better and how to benefit from every single phone conversation.
We asked participants to record themselves saying “hello” in six different ways:
- Normal Hello (This is the control.)
- Happy Hello (Thinking of something that made them happy and holding a Happiness Microexpression.)
- Sad Hello (Thinking of something that made them sad and holding a Sadness Microexpression.)
- Angry Hello (Thinking of something that made them angry and holding an Angry Microexpression.)
- Power Posing (While adopting a Power Pose.)
- Normal Hello (One more control once they were warmed up.)
We added these recordings to our website and asked our readers to tell us how much they liked (or didn’t like) the person in the recording just based on the “hello” they heard. Readers listened to each clip and selected one of the following answers:
- I like this person a lot.
- I like this person a little.
- I do not like this person.
Which version of the “hello” do you think was the most likable?
….the winner was the Happy Hello!
The data revealed that the happy recordings received significantly higher approval ratings than any other hello. This is a huge finding as it shows people can hear your mood.
Which variation do you think did the worst?
….the Angry Hello!
Action Step: Your mood affects your voice. We like hearing happy moods and we don’t like hearing irritable moods. Reserve your phone calls for when you’re in a quiet place, you’re calm and you’re settled. Resist the urge to answer when you’re stuck in traffic or having a bad day. Learn about the full experiment and how to sound confident on the phone in this video:
Bonus Vocal Tip: Avoid the Question Inflection
One of the biggest mistakes people make with nonverbal confidence is with their voice tone. Confident people never use the question inflection for statements. For example, be careful not to say your name as a question like “My name is Vanessa?” You want to make it authoritative by going down at the end of the sentence. “My name is Vanessa.”
Make sure to use the authoritative tone whenever you answer a question to show you are sure of your words. Research has found that women who use the question inflection are seen as less trustworthy by men.
Happiness = Confidence
I often get asked how to increase confidence. Perhaps you feel confident already. This is excellent news! But maybe you’re looking to increase your confidence levels or you’re seeking more regular or reoccurring confidence in your day-to-day interactions and at work.
If you’re curious about how to be more confident at work, one of the best ways to feel professionally confident is to have meaningfulness in your job. Do you know your company’s mission? Do you know the impact of your work? When we don’t know how our daily responsibilities contribute to a larger mission, we can feel disengaged or hopeless in the workplace.
To feel more motivated and aware of how your work impacts the larger organization, first find out your company’s mission statement. This may be listed on the “About” page of their website or you may need to ask your direct manager. If your company doesn’t have one, write your own personal mission statement. Put this somewhere easy to see on your desk or hang it on your cubicle wall.
This reminder will serve as a tangible motivator of your why and boost your confidence that what you do is important. A bonus happy-maker is to keep a success folder on your computer. This is a folder that contains records of accomplishments, testimonials and any other examples of your rockstar status at work. If you’re having a bad day, open your success folder to remind yourself of your worth.
Action Step: Watch all 10 ways to be happier at work:
How to Be Confident with Social Anxiety
If you get stressed out in social settings, it’s possible you may be suffering from social anxiety.
Social anxiety is when you feel nervous, tense or uncomfortable in social situations because you’re worried other people are judging you. Almost everyone has experienced social anxiety at one point or another. Life is rife with moments of self-consciousness–from job interviews to first dates. We all occasionally feel nervous around other people.
Unfortunately, social anxiety can suppress our inner confidence and make it feel impossible to be social in an authentic way. The good news is there are ways to overcome your social anxiety with a treatment known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.
CBT is recognized as one of the most effective treatment options for social anxiety. It’s endorsed by leading mental health organizations, including the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health and the U.K. National Health Service. CBT is a set of activities proven to reduce your anxiety through repeated practice. It consists of two main parts: cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy.
The cognitive part of CBT is based on the idea that it’s not a social situation that makes you anxious, but your interpretation of that situation. The behavioral part of CBT involves gradually facing the situations that make you anxious to overcome your fear of them.
Action Step: Learn more about social anxiety and how to deal with it in our full video:
Want your confidence to help you shine at work? Learn how to stand out from your peers with our spot-check guide: 5 Steps to Prep Your Confidence Every Day. You’ll get actionable tips to build your very own confidence ritual, including:
- Relaxation Exercise
- Vocal Warm-up
- Daily Happiness
- Gratitude Spark
- Healthy Self-Talk
How to Walk Confidently
Did you know your walk can project your confidence? Bio Motion Lab analyzes and synthesizes biological motion patterns–a fancy way of saying they study walking and movement for patterns.
From their website: “Biological motion contains information about several different emotions, intentions, personality traits and biological attributes of the agent. The human visual system is highly sensitive to biological motion and capable of extracting this information from it. We investigate the question of how such information is encoded in biological motion patterns and how it can be retrieved from it. We developed a framework that transforms biological motion into a linearized representation, which enables us to apply linear methods from statistics and pattern recognition to its analysis.”
They use several variants to show different kinds of walks, including:
A nervous walker moves faster, with the arms held tightly at the sides. A relaxed walker moves more slowly, with the arms loose by the sides. What’s your typical walk look like?
Action Step: Play the walking demo to see the project in action.
Find a Confident Role Model
Confidence often is easier to develop when we can watch and emulate someone in action.
Do you have someone in your life who exudes confidence professionally or personally? Maybe a partner, colleague or close friend? Assign them as your confidence role model!
This can be a secret role model (you observe and take notes of how they interact) or a not-too-secret role model, which is the better option. There’s no better compliment than telling someone their natural confidence is alluring. This can lead to multiple benefits, including you bonding with them on a deeper level, them sharing ideas on how you can up your individual confidence and maybe they even become a confidence mentor or accountability partner.
Not sure who to choose? Cayenne Consulting suggests looking for a role model in the workplace who embodies the following qualities:
- Demonstrates confidence and leadership.
- Isn’t afraid to be unique.
- Communicates and interacts with everyone.
- Shows respect and concern for everyone.
- Is knowledgeable and well-rounded.
- Has humility and shows willingness to admit mistakes.
- Does good things outside the job.
What I love about this list of qualities is that many are unexpected. Confidence comes in multiple flavors. It isn’t about being the most extroverted, bubbly person in the room. Sometimes it’s about empathy. Sometimes it’s about competence.
Action Step: Write down your own confidence definition. What does it mean and represent to you? Next, find someone in your workplace who fits the mold of your definition. Tell them you admire them.
Pump-up Your Confidence
Are you in a funk? When we experience burnout or exhaustion, our confidence tends to dip. A fun method to ramp up your confidence is creating different kinds of confidence playlists.
This can be a Spotify playlist that gets you in a good mood or a YouTube playlist that inspires you or even your favorite podcast can do the trick. Listen or watch when you’re brushing your teeth, getting ready or on your commute–any time you need a pump-up.
Here’s some great ideas to get you going:
- The 11 Best Self Improvement Podcasts To Supercharge Your Growth
- The Confidence Podcast
- Best Personal Development Podcasts
- The Lifehacker Pump-Up Song Playlist
- Professional Development Playlist [YouTube] *We may be a little biased, but we love our videos to help you professionally!
- Inspirational Music Videos [YouTube]
- Inspirational Songs [YouTube]
- Pre-game Pump-up Playlist [YouTube]
- Ultimate Pump Up [Spotify]
Action Step: Bookmark these ideas for when you need a boost!
Overcome Impostor Syndrome
For many high achievers, success comes at a price. And this price is known as Impostor Syndrome.
This is a psychological phenomenon that causes smart, talented people to feel like a fraud–to feel undeserving of their accomplishments.
Studies have found that 70 percent of all people feel like impostors at one time or another. This is a big problem! Here’s the most important thing to keep in mind:
This is not a defect.
Impostor Syndrome is not a personality trait; it’s a reaction to an event. Do you ever think your accomplishments are pure luck? Do you ever worry that people will find out you aren’t worthy?
This is Impostor Syndrome at work! When our mind and thoughts work against us, our confidence shrivels and hides away. One way to fight Impostor Syndrome is with motivating self-talk. Read on to find out how to gain confidence mentally…
Action Step: Stop feeling like a fraud.
How to Spark Confidence in Your Brain
Our thoughts dictate nearly every aspect of our existence. So if our thoughts are insecure or demotivated, it’s nearly impossible to think and feel confidently about ourselves.
Shad Helmstetter, author of What to Say When You Talk to Your Self, argues that we are programmed by our thoughts. Our mindset and our self-truths are the epicenter of our confidence.
Self-Truths: The ideas we tell ourselves. The beliefs we carry around, whether they are true or not.
What are the stories you tell yourself? What are your truths? And are these factual truths or are assumed truths that could be falsehoods because they have gone unchecked? Many people tell themselves “I’ll never be good at sports” or “I’m not creative” or “I could never own my own business.” I want you to dig into these truths a bit more. Do you believe this because someone told you that you never would succeed at [fill in the blank]? Is there a deeper insecurity that contributes to this limiting belief?
Challenge your thoughts and take ownership of your mindset to stop the lies and live in truth.
Action Step: Learn how to get motivated with these ten tips.
Act on Your Confidence (in 5 Seconds)
Have you experienced sweeping confidence to speak an idea or tell a joke or encourage a friend, just for that confidence to disappear almost instantly?
According to Mel Robbins, this is the five-second rule. Mel believes confidence is a skill that requires mindset and action to take effect. Otherwise, the confidence goes away altogether. If you let time and doubt infest your idea or joke or comment, the confidence can’t materialize into action.
Mel writes in her blog, “The 5 Second Rule is simple. If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it. The moment you feel an instinct or a desire to act on a goal or a commitment, use the Rule. When you feel yourself hesitate before doing something that you know you should do, count 5-4-3-2-1-GO and move towards action.”
“Your life is defined by the gap between what happens to you and your reaction to it.” — Mel Robbins
Action Step: The next time you want to speak up or share something, use the 5 Second Rule as a spearhead for your confidence.
Limit Social Media Consumption
We all love a good dog photo on Instagram, right? Well, research shows that social media is hurting us. The endless comparisons we subject ourselves to via this technological vehicle can have lasting and harmful effects.
Researcher Clarissa Silva interviewed men and women between the ages of 28 and 73 and found these frightening results:
- 60 percent of people using social media reported that it has impacted their self-esteem in a negative way.
- 50 percent reported social media having negative effects on their relationships.
- 80 percent reported that is easier to be deceived by others through their sharing on social media.
This insecurity is especially rampant in the online dating space. According to Silva, “It seems that social media is creating a paradox effect: giving off the illusion of many choices, while making it harder to find viable options. The paradox effect in dating is creating the illusion of having more social engagement, social capital, and popularity, but masking one’s true persona.”
Remember, there is a big, bright world happening around you. Social media helps us to stay connected and informed, but it’s important to find a balance between reality and fantasy. Want to really conquer your social media? For every hour you spend on social media in the next month, spend the equivalent time with friends or family in person to balance it out.
Action Step: Create a Learning Bucket List to get off your phone and into the world!
Here’s the bottom line: The path to more confidence is in your hands. Confidence doesn’t grow without water, fertilizer and a little TLC. Take steps — even small ones — to up your confidence and kick start the life you always wanted.
Be sure to get your copy of 5 Steps to Prep Your Confidence Every Day. In this guide, you’ll get actionable tips to build your very own confidence ritual, including:
- Relaxation Exercise
- Vocal Warm-up
- Daily Happiness
- Gratitude Spark
- Healthy Self-Talk
About Vanessa Van Edwards
Lead Investigator, Science of People
I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.
Join Over 500,000 Students
Are you looking to kickstart your career? Level up your leadership? Join thousands of students learning to master their people skills and make an impact on the world. And for joining today I'm giving away a free one hour audio training to help you jump start your learning!