People who appear confident tend to enjoy greater success, because others see self-assured individuals as more trustworthy. If you exude low self-confidence, or a lack of self-belief, others may assume that you’re incompetent, untrustworthy or unreliable.
If you’re particularly anxious, it may be challenging to appear confident; but there are signals that you can give to your own brain to let it know that it’s time to relax. There are also clever ways of appearing confident to other people, even if you’re suffering from nerves.
So, if you’re not a naturally calm, confident person, there is no need to despair. Here are eight tricks you can use to come across as confident — even if you’re nervous, introverted or shy.
1. Make eye contact (easily)
People who make firm eye contact with others are usually judged to be confident and in control. Connecting with someone’s gaze shows them that you have nothing to hide — and it can be a powerful tool in building trust.
However, maintaining someone’s gaze can feel quite uncomfortable. Especially if you’re a shy person, you might have difficulty looking people in the eye, or keeping eye contact. In that case, fix your gaze between the other person’s eyes instead. No-one will actually be able to tell that you’re not looking them directly in the eyes, and they will assume that you are a self-assured and confident individual.
2. Chew gum to feel more confident
If you’re feeling anxious when you really need to feel confident, chewing a piece of gum can help to calm your nerves. Extreme anxiety is often the result of your brain preparing for ‘fight or flight.’ But if you send data to your brain telling it that all is well, your nervous system will relax and send out calming chemicals.
When you eat or chew, your brain assumes that you can’t possibly be in danger, because you wouldn’t be eating if you were. Chewing some gum tricks your brain into thinking you’re safely eating a meal, and it will start producing chemicals that neutralize any stress responses.
When you’re less stressed, it is much easier to appear confident. Chewing also provides extra saliva, so if you’re about to speak to someone important, you won’t get a dry mouth.
3. Breathe deeply
Quick, shallow breaths are both a symptom, and a cause, of anxiety. If you can learn to control your breathing, you will appear to be more confident to others, and will actually feel calmer inside, too. If you breathe very quickly, you can even make other people around you nervous. Controlled, slow, deep breathing immediately reassures people and makes them view you more positively.
Practice breathing from the diaphragm, rather than from high up in the chest. Breathe in a smooth, slow, deep manner. Not only will even, steady breathing make you look more confident, but it will also deliver healthy amounts of oxygen to the brain. When you have more oxygen going to your brain, you will be able to think more clearly, which should help you communicate more confidently.
4. Lower your voice tone to seem more confident
If you ever watch the news, you’ll notice that many newsreaders have quite deep voices, and there’s a very good reason for that. People perceive lower vocal tones to be more authoritative and trustworthy than high pitched voices. Those with lower voices tend to command more respect and appear more confident.
Being able to modulate your voice tone gives off signals that you are calm, confident and in control. Learning to modulate your tone of voice can be done by practicing controlled breathing. After taking some slow, deep breaths it is much easier to control your pitch.
Saying “er” or “um” too much will make you appear less confident. If you’re unsure of what to say, practice leaving masterful pauses instead.
5. Stand up straight
Your posture can really affect how you feel and how others judge your character. Improving your posture can instantly make a positive impression and make you feel better about yourself.
Take on the stance a confident person would take, with your shoulders back and your chest out. Keep your back straight and your chin raised slightly. Not only will this make you look more confident, but you’ll feel more in control, too.
6. Show you’re confident by showing your hands
There’s a reason why politicians often have their hands clasped together when making a public speech. If you’re feeling anxious, you’re much more likely to fiddle with your fingers, which signals to others that you’re not confident about what you’re saying. Clasping or steepling your fingers can stop this nervous habit.
You should also use your hands to emphasize what you’re saying, as other appropriate gestures make you look more confident. Break your hands apart from time to time to make a salient point. If you feel too nervous to do that, simply move your clasped hands downwards to mark out important phrases. This will also make you look like you’re confident about your subject matter.
7. Use supportive self-talk
If you’ve got negative thoughts about yourself running through your head, this can make you feel anxious and under-confident. And your lack of self-confidence will show to the outside world as well.
‘Cheerleading’ yourself at times when you need to cement your confidence can be really helpful. Pick a few phrases that will make you feel good inside. “I am in control” is a good example of a helpful phrase to boost your confidence.
8. Mentally rehearse
If you know that you’ll be going into a new situation, or perhaps an important meeting, practicing the event in your head can help you feel more confident when you have to do it for real. Good preparation is the key to being genuinely confident, so preparing fully should always include an imaginary rehearsal of the situation to come.
See yourself leaving the house confidently and fully prepared. Run through arriving and meeting the people you need to. Imagine the event going well, and experience the feeling of being successful. Finally, see yourself leaving, feeling pleased at getting a good outcome. It’s a bit like meditation, but more goal-oriented than in-the-moment.
One more thing: Mental rehearsal has been proven to actually improve performance, so knowing that should make you feel more confident as well.