Career Woman

How to boost your confidence and make an impact

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When you spot a colleague – or dreaded rival! – who seems to overflow with confidence in the workplace, it’s easy to assume that they’re working from a position of complete inner-belief. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that they’re working from the outside-in.

Confidence isn’t just the result of ability and success. It breeds them.

When you appear confident, others have confidence in you. They trust you with opportunities – a new responsibility, a promotion. These challenges in themselves drive you on to be a better professional.

And the appearance of confidence also drags up your own inner confidence levels. The connection between body and mind facilitates two-way traffic. When you act confident, you feel confident, and that leads to risk-taking, pro-active learning, chance-taking – and growth.

Sounds great, right? – but what does the ‘appearance of confidence’ mean? We’ve all seen folk who try desperately to appear confident. They often end up betraying their inner nerves. They rely on a cartoonish instinct about how confidence is supposed to look, instead of basing their behavior in what we scientifically know about body language and interpersonal communication.

The science of the self-assured

Body language is partly cultural – group norms and expectations evolve in different cultures. But the stuff that really talks to us is animal. It runs through our deepest primal memories. That’s why it’s so funny to see when those ape tendencies rise uncontrollably to the surface.

When George W. Bush walked side-by-side with other international leaders, he held his hands knuckle-forward. Evidently, somebody had told him that this was how an alpha ape should walk. It’s designed to make the guy (or gal) next to him look second-best. But Bush just ended up looking uncomfortable because he didn’t make the gesture his own. Rather than looking like a confident world leader, he gave the impression of being – well, rather apish.

Rather than adopting animal shapes, simply correcting some of your nervous behavior can trigger the hormones that regulate the way you feel about the world around you: increasing testosterone, which can make you more confident, and reducing cortisol, the stress hormone.

How to stand up

It might sound sinister to talk about ‘correcting’ your behavior, but they are all fixes that you should instinctively know are true.

Standing up straight is a great example of this. Your parents told you that slouching is lazy; but that’s not the only case. Slouching can be a defensive mechanism, a way of hunching up. Sit up straight and you look proud, assertive, with nothing to hide. Stand tall, and you will inspire faith in others and in yourself.

Likewise, you know that your hands shouldn’t be in your pockets – it’s a bit casual for a professional encounter. But it also makes you look insecure. It’s a bad habit that is worth shaking.

And eye contact can take the most energy of all when you’re shy. It makes a conversation more intense, more tiring. But it’s a well-earned exhaustion for the meaningful connection you make and the appearance of trust and self-belief that you exude.

It’s the way you tell it

We think of words and the voice as being intangible, bodiless things. This kind of divide is not helpful. Your voice sounds the way it does because your body is how it is; and you can manipulate it with physical self-control.

The resonance of your voice has an emotional effect on the listener, which in turn is a matter of hormones and subsequent physical feelings.

If you’re tired of not being taken seriously, learn to talk again. Find space at home to practice searching for your voice down in your belly, and to use your diaphragm and your breathing to project that voice.

Work with your pitch, too: try not to end phrases as questions, unless they are questions. It makes you sound unsure of your knowledge and your ideas. It is more powerful, and more useful for the team, if you state your case firmly and then ask questions to engage your colleagues. They will respect your position and address you as an equal.

And that’s when you discover that you’ve started to become the confident professional you want to be.

When you spot a colleague – or dreaded rival! – who seems to overflow with confidence in the workplace, it’s easy to assume that they’re working from a position of complete inner-belief. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that they’re working from the outside-in.  Confidence isn’t just the result of ability and success. It breeds them.  When you appear confident, others have confidence in you. They trust you with opportunities - a new responsibility, a promotion. These challenges in themselves drive you on to be a better professional.  And the appearance of confidence also drags up your own inner confidence levels. The connection between body and mind facilitates two-way traffic. When you act confident, you feel confident, and that leads to risk-taking, pro-active learning, chance-taking – and growth.  Sounds great, right? – but what does the ‘appearance of confidence’ mean? We’ve all seen folk who try desperately to appear confident. They often end up betraying their inner nerves. They rely on a cartoonish instinct about how confidence is supposed to look, instead of basing their behavior in what we scientifically know about body language and interpersonal communication.  The science of the self-assured  Body language is partly cultural – group norms and expectations evolve in different cultures. But the stuff that really talks to us is animal. It runs through our deepest primal memories. That’s why it’s so funny to see when those ape tendencies rise uncontrollably to the surface.  When George W. Bush walked side-by-side with other international leaders, he held his hands knuckle-forward. Evidently, somebody had told him that this was how an alpha ape should walk. It’s designed to make the guy (or gal) next to him look second-best. But Bush just ended up looking uncomfortable because he didn’t make the gesture his own. Rather than looking like a confident world leader, he gave the impression of being – well, rather apish.  Rather than adopting animal shapes, simply correcting some of your nervous behavior can trigger the hormones that regulate the way you feel about the world around you: increasing testosterone, which can make you more confident, and reducing cortisol, the stress hormone.  How to stand up  It might sound sinister to talk about ‘correcting’ your behavior, but they are all fixes that you should instinctively know are true.  Standing up straight is a great example of this. Your parents told you that slouching is lazy; but that’s not the only case. Slouching can be a defensive mechanism, a way of hunching up. Sit up straight and you look proud, assertive, with nothing to hide. Stand tall, and you will inspire faith in others and in yourself. Likewise, you know that your hands shouldn’t be in your pockets – it’s a bit casual for a professional encounter. But it also makes you look insecure. It’s a bad habit that is worth shaking.  And eye contact can take the most energy of all when you’re shy. It makes a conversation more intense, more tiring. But it’s a well-earned exhaustion for the meaningful connection you make and the appearance of trust and self-belief that you exude.  It’s the way you tell it  We think of words and the voice as being intangible, bodiless things. This kind of divide is not helpful. Your voice sounds the way it does because your body is how it is; and you can manipulate it with physical self-control.   The resonance of your voice has an emotional effect on the listener, which in turn is a matter of hormones and subsequent physical feelings.  If you’re tired of not being taken seriously, learn to talk again. Find space at home to practice searching for your voice down in your belly, and to use your diaphragm and your breathing to project that voice.   Work with your pitch, too: try not to end phrases as questions, unless they are questions. It makes you sound unsure of your knowledge and your ideas. It is more powerful, and more useful for the team, if you state your case firmly and then ask questions to engage your colleagues. They will respect your position and address you as an equal.  And that’s when you discover that you’ve started to become the confident professional you want to be.

About John Cole

John Cole writes on behalf of NeoMam Studios. A digital nomad specialising in leadership, digital media, and personal growth topics, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in the UK, Norway, and the Balkans. Gravatar: https://en.gravatar.com/gjohncole

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