Even if you’re notorious for ditching parties or high-pressure dating situations, you can learn to not only own a room but captivate nearly everyone in it. From The Body Language of Dating: Read His Signals, Send Your Own, and Get the Guy.
The Certain Saunter: When you’re certain about where you’re going, your intentions for when you get there, and your ability to accomplish your goal, your gait will prove it.
If an overtly sexy walk is a milk shake, then a confident walk is extrarich chocolate milk. Confident people don’t imitate sticks, nor do they overemphasize the sexual nature of the girly hip swing (unless the situation demands serious flirting). In most situations, a walk in which you swing your arms comfortably, hold your shoulders down and back, and swivel your hips just enough to differentiate your gait from that of your male counterparts will boost your confidence in yourself and others’ perceptions of you.
The “Eye’m” Here: Confidence invites other people to look in your direction. Eye contact from you lets them know that you’re aware of your surroundings and that you’re available for communication.
This tactic also builds confidence. When you spend all night looking at the carpet, it’s easy to believe that no one’s looking at you. Raise your eyes and conduct some optical lockup with a few willing participants and you might be surprised at how many people are looking at you.
The Low-and-Exposed: Whether you’re holding a cell phone, a drink, or a purse, keep it low or to the side of your body (which gives you the added effect of taking up more space). This opens your body up and shows that you’re confident enough to showcase your physical goods while laughing in the face of that “impending” danger. An item that’s held high, over the chest, is essentially being used as a shield for an anticipated attack.
The Product Pose: Confident people are not only self-assured about their abilities and their social skills; they’re also confident about the package in which it’s all wrapped. By facing people head-on, putting your hands on your hips, and casually resting the majority of your weight on one leg, you’re letting them know that you’re happy with your packaging, and that you think they’ll like it, too.
Taking Up Space: Shy and insecure people try to take up as little space as possible—as if they don’t deserve it. You can increase your self-confidence by moving your arms while you talk, standing and sitting with your legs spread slightly, and being generously mobile within a group.
Caveat: Be careful not to take your chunk of personal space out of others’. Often they will view this as an unwelcome invasion. Remember, “too confident” can easily drift into “cocky.”
Introversion: An Evolutionary Relic
About 20 percent of the world’s population is estimated to be shy, reserved, quiet, introverted . . . and if that includes you, you may have grown to believe that because you are shy, there’s no hope for you in the confidence department. Therein lies a glaring misconception.
True shyness, scientifically dubbed sensory perception sensitivity, does not equate to a lack of confidence. Instead, introverted people are particularly sensitive to loud noises, take more time than average to become comfortable in new situations, are philosophical and contemplative than average, are startled easily, hold particular sensitivity to caffeine, and as has been more recently discovered, are more meticulous in the performance of tasks and show more brain activity when presented with visual stimuli.
If you’re introverted or shy, that doesn’t automatically mean that you’re underconfident, snobbish, or unapproachable. Instead it simply means that your brain is designed to effectively take in experiences and sights without being hurried. Fruit fly, fish, dog, and primate species all include individuals that demonstrate shyness, giving credence to the belief that this personality trait serves a purpose in an evolutionary sense. As humans developed, those who looked and listened first, rather than diving into danger, would have enjoyed longer lives under the auspices of their introverted natures. However, when danger or fleeting opportunity presented itself, the daredevils would have benefited. Even in cave huddles, the need for both thinkers and doers was prevalent.
If you do experience some level of shyness, know that you can still effectively exude confidence. Shy women are not automatically underconfident and shyness isn’t necessarily something that needs to be “fixed.” Authentic self-assurance does not come in the form of loud speech or a partying personality. Instead it’s all about feeling comfortable in the quiet, yet confident, role that evolution has chosen for you.
Master-Touching: Socially acceptable touching can be used to gently control, and when you’re the controller, your confidence will build. Momentarily lay a hand on someone’s hand, arm, or shoulder while you’re speaking to them and you’ll establish yourself as a confident and playful individual.
No Digit Fidget: As a serial fidgeter, I can tell you that leg jiggling burns calories in home offices, but it also holds the potential to burn confidence bridges in public settings. If you fidget, make it a habit to ask yourself, “Am I being still?” Foot tapping, finger drumming, hand wringing, lip biting, eye darting, nail picking or chewing, and NAS CAR-speed leg pumping are all outward signs of inward anxiety.
Confident people aren’t anxious. They sit still. Often.
The Thumb-body Special: An insecure woman will hide her thumbs, tucking them against the palms of her hands or stuffing them into her pockets. I like to call the thumb “the power digit” not only because it has helped humankind to accomplish all things mechanical, but because displaying it tells others (covertly) that we are in charge of ourselves and of the situation.
The farther from the palm the thumb is held, and the more upward it’s pointing, the more powerful and confident the thumb’s proprietor is feeling. Additionally, the more exposed and vulnerable the thumb appears, the less vulnerable the user of that thumb is feeling. It’s a paradox, but so is the thumb—an overlooked but powerful digit.
The Shake-It-Up: A confident greeting shakes up people’s perceptions of you without shaking up their rotator cuffs. Your handshake should be firm. Too clammy or weak and you’ll be perceived as . . . well, clammy or weak. A bone-crushing handshake or one that knocks eyeglasses off faces tells people that you’re trying to compensate for a weakness.
When it comes to handshakes, follow the golden rule: Shake as you wish to be shaken.
Body Watch: If you want to show confidence or control of a situation, manipulate a handshake so that your hand is on top.
The Right Register: In business and other nonsexual situations, when power is an irrefutable asset, a deep voice shows confidence. Remember that long ago, people used low, growly bear tones to scare away wild predators and scavengers. (Now, that was confidence.) You don’t want to scare your target away, but you do want to leave him with the impression that you’re not afraid.
When interacting with the opposite sex for sexual or affectionate purposes, you can take your sexy pick: a pitch that’s slightly lower than your norm, in imitation of a raspy, sensual voice like Demi Moore’s, or your natural speaking voice. Either way it should be melodious, not curt and snappy. Avoid a tight, highpitched tone that gives away your rattled nerves. When you’re not confident in the words that are spewing forth from your mouth, your vocal cords will tighten, elevating the pitch of your voice. Therefore an insecure speaker will use the upper register of her voice, sending reliable cues that she’s unsure of her own words and causing doubt to blossom in others’ evaluations of her.
Find your head voice (nasal), your middle voice (between the nose and the throat), and your chest voice (feel the vibration in your chest). You can do this by humming a scale, starting with a high note and sliding down to the lowest note you’re able to sing. Take note of the vibrations and how they move downward, into your chest. Practice duplicating that chest vibration with your speaking voice. Use it enough and it’s likely to become your comfort zone.
Taking some deep, diaphragmatic breaths before speaking will calm your nervous system and help to relax those uptight cords.
You Are What You Wear
As Dana from the sitcom According to Jim attests, confidence starts from the outside in. Though seemingly shallow, this statement does carry some truth.
If you feel that you look good, others will pick up on that vibe and stop to take in the scenery. In a Finnish study published in 2009, researchers asked twenty-five women to exhibit neutral facial expressions while wearing different outfits that made them feel attractive, unattractive, or comfortable. When men were presented with the photographs, they almost always rated the faces of the women who were wearing nice clothing (as rated by the women themselves) as more attractive. Not surprised? What if I told you that the men couldn’t see the clothing but saw only the faces? Now that’s remarkable.
Even though we may perceive our own expressions to be neutral, underlying emotions still leak out—so we’d better make them good ones. Attractiveness increases your chances of interaction with everyone (not just men), and with every encounter, confidence will bloom.
Brake Application: If you’re operating at a caffeinated pace, your demeanor exudes anything but confidence. Confident people move a bit slower than the speed limit, forcing others to decelerate in order to interact with them.
Walk into a room slowly. Pick up your drink and stir it with purpose. When you speak, allow every word to form on your lips, rather than crunching them all together like a verbal pileup on the highway.
Taking your time says, “What I have to say is worth waiting for.” When you apply the brakes to your behavior, you will appear to be purposeful, content, and confident while in motion.
Face-Aching Smiles: A smile is the single most important thing you can do to build and convey real or faux confidence. It tells others that you’re a joy to be with, that your outlook is positive and relatively problem-free, and that you have plenty of happiness to share with them.
Going back to mirror neurons, you can ask any psychologist about facial feedback and he or she will tell you that not only are facial expressions the products of emotions, but emotions can be affected by facial expressions. That means that by simply plastering a smile on your face, you can improve your mood and your outlook on your day and your life. In fact, research has shown that one smile does more for the human brain than $25,000 in cash or $2,000 worth of chocolate bars.
When you smile, allow it to slowly spread over your face (as opposed to making eye contact and “slapping” on a quick grin). This will be seen as more authentic. Tilt your head toward your target or in the same direction as someone you’re talking to: this will increase the impact of that confident smile. Finally, don’t forget to allow your smile to transform your entire face. Your lower eyelids should raise, your cheeks should elevate, and a generous portion of your teeth should show.
Remember to always buttress your new confident body language with a smile. Your face might begin to ache, but you’ll find that your confidence has never felt better.
For more confidence-boosters, check out The Body Language of Dating: Read His Signals, Send Your Own, and Get the Guy.