You don’t have to jump out of a plane or face your biggest fear to begin to successfully build your confidence. All big things, start small.
“We’re going to try something a bit different. I want you to stand up and press the back of your heels together and take a deep breath. If you’re a bit confused, just think of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Click. Click. On your feet. Come on, Mike. Let’s go.”
I thought my speech therapist had forgotten to take her meds when she made the suggestion above. We were supposed to be working on getting my stutter under wraps and here she was asking me to click my heels.
“You’re joking, right?” I stammered.
She looked back at me with one of those looks only a therapist can give that reminded me that I came to her for help.
After letting out a sigh, I finally followed her lead and was immediately blown away. “Wow,” I replied after taking a deep breath. “You’re right. This feels good. It actually hurts my neck to slouch. Why don’t they teach this stuff in school?”
“Standing like Superman helps you to breathe easier and come off as more confident.” My therapist continued, “If it’s not your thing, however, don’t underestimate the power of standing like Dorothy.”
Growing up with a severe stutter and social anxiety, I’ve tried just about everything in the book to feel more confident.
I never would have imagined standing like Dorothy would be one of the first tricks that would actually work. It showed me the immediate power of demonstrating strong posture and the impact it had on my own self-image.
Try it for yourself the next time you are lacking confidence or find yourself in an intimidating situation. Researchers are right: if you want to boost your self-esteem, focus on your body.
Below are four more light-weight, but heavy impact exercises that have the potential to help you build your confidence.
1. Do something you’re good at prior to going out
Do you think you’ll perform better and feel looser in an interview after reading your notes for the 100th time? Or after leaning into something that lights you up?
When meeting with new people, will you come off as more confident after spending an hour staring at a spreadsheet? Or after you’ve gone for a run or spent even a few minutes making your favorite art?
What we choose to do before meeting with people greatly impacts how well we do when we’re with them.
People can smell your bad day at work a mile away. By doing something quick that lights you up, you may just find that you complain less and bring more energy to the conversation.
If you want to build your confidence, we are told to fake it till we make it. Don’t worry about that. Instead, hack your attitude by doing something that fuels you.
2. When on a call, trade-in your seat and stand on your feet
In the book “Selling with Confidence,” author Andrew Holmes suggests standing up rather than sitting down when making our calls. According to Holmes, this simple switch not only helps us to project our voice, but it also helps us to bring more energy and positivity to our calls.
Behavioral scientist and the founder of The Science of People, Vanessa Van Edwards, mirrors Holmes’s suggestion. Her research has shown it only takes people a few seconds to determine how confident you are when first speaking to you.
Stand up on your next call and take note of how much more energetic you sound.
One other thing I like to do when on video calls is I place my computer on a surface that is at my eye-level. Then I follow the lead of my therapist and stand like Dorothy so I breathe easier while sounding and feeling more confident.
3. Play with the speed of your voice
The average speaking speed for most adults is around 100 to 130 words a minute. When most people think of confident speakers they think of those who speak slowly and take time to properly articulate their message. But according to various studies, including one performed by researchers at The University of Michigan, the sweet spot for sounding more persuasive and influential is around 200 words per minute.
For me personally, there is a time and place for both speaking slowly and quickly.
As a general rule, however, if you are expressing new ideas, slowing down may allow you to better gather your thoughts to ensure you don’t make any communication mistakes.
When speaking about things you are very comfortable with, however, try spending up your speaking rate a beat or two. You may find that this brings passion and excitement to your voice which is a key factor when it comes to being more charismatic.
No matter the situation, however, when giving someone a compliment or expressing appreciation, make a point not to rush. Look the person in the eye. Say “Thank You” slowly, instead of giving a rushed “Thanks.” This simple switch has the power to turn an ordinary compliment into something memorable.
4. Focus on your approach more than your words
When it comes to first impressions, most people get so stressed out about what they are going to say, they forget a simple fact: people begin judging others the moment they see them, not the moment they hear them.
This can sound scary and make you feel like you are always being watched. But it’s reality. Walking slouched over with a grim look on your face is never a good look and it sends negative signals to people that both you and them have to fight very hard to turn around.
A simple trick to help you stay conscious of this is to write down the actions of someone who walks with confidence.
If you are anything like me, you see someone whose head is up and someone who is taking in the world around them instead of looking down at their phone or their feet.
They may not be sporting a massive cheeseburger smile. But when approaching people, they look them in the eye a few times while giving a few friendly head nods to express acknowledgment. Or maybe they raise their arms while walking towards people and open up their body to express how excited they are to see the person they are meeting with.
Take note of the micro-expressions, movements, and gestures of the people who make you feel comfortable. Tinker around with ways to make these movements your own.
You’ll never be confident if you aren’t clear regarding what confidence looks like to you as an individual.
The tips above may sound basic, but that’s the point. You don’t need to jump out of a plane or face our greatest fears to build your confidence.
Start small and focus on your body and voice.
You may find that by taking these little steps you don’t get as rattled when you are faced with something that really tests your confidence.
Last but not least, be the person who prioritizes being the kindest person in each room you walk into. When it comes to connecting with others few things compete with thoughtful gestures.