Projecting Self-Confidence


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The way you walk into a room, the way you sit in a meeting and the way you talk all contribute to how you are perceived by others. When meeting someone for the first time, people quickly create a mental impression based on a collection of non-verbal statements made by your posture, expression and eyes—even before a word is spoken. As this impression is being created, certain behaviors and practices destroy credibility and portray weakness, while others portray strength and self-assurance, building acceptance and a desire to trust. The following table lists and contrasts some of the behaviors that can make or break your critical first impression.

Projecting Self-Confidence: Posture, Stance and Facial Expression

Habits and mannerisms that damage credibility and portray weakness

Habits and mannerisms that build self-assurance and portray strength

  • Stooped posture.
  • Closed stance/fisted palms.
  • Taking up little space.
  • Chin down or head tilted.
  • Poor eye contact.
  • Inappropriate smiling (e.g. excessive grin or “private joke” smile).
  • Unpleasant facial expression.
  • Weak, limp or wet handshake.
  • Fidgeting, swaying, biting/licking lips, shuffling feet, touching face or hair.
  • Weak voice or poor voice projection.
  • Hesitant speech patterns. Voice going up at the end of statements.
  • Speaking too quickly and frequently using filler words (um, ah, etc.).
  • Ineffective pauses (darting eyes, filler words/noises).
  • Erect and balanced posture.
  • Open stance/open palms.
  • Taking up more space.
  • Head up facing others.
  • Direct eye contact (60% of the time).
  • Pleasant facial expression (relaxed, calm, in a good mood).
  • Firm handshake (extend first).
  • Relaxed and competent manner. (i.e. not  Fidgeting, swaying, biting or licking lips, shuffling feet, etc.).
  • Full voice projection (not shouting).
  • Clear firm speech patterns. Voice level or going down at end of statements.
  • Speaking at slower, more deliberate pace without filler words.
  • Effective pauses (solid eye contact, clearly intentional).

Until you begin to speak, your posture, stance, facial expression and handshake speak for you. In North America, the single most important factor in projecting self-confidence—both prior to and during conversation—is strong eye contact.

Projecting Self-Confidence: Speech Patterns

Once a conversation or presentation begins, a number of additional behaviors come into play that will further help or hinder the impression you create.

Speech patterns that damage credibility and portray weakness

Speech patterns that build self-assurance and portray strength

  • Weak voice or poor voice projection.
  • Hesitant speech patterns. Voice going up at the end of statements.
  • Speaking too quickly and frequently using filler words (um, ah, etc.).
  • Ineffective pauses (darting eyes, filler words/noises).
  • Full voice projection (but not shouting).
  • Clear firm speech patterns. Voice level or going down at end of statements.
  • Speaking at slower, more deliberate pace without filler words.
  • Effective pauses (solid eye contact, clearly intentional).

Pacing is an important element of verbal communication. Speaking too quickly undermines the authority of the speaker, making her seem less trustworthy. Interestingly enough, what is considered “fast-talking” differs depending on geography and demographics. For example, in the United States, urban New Yorkers tends to speak on the fast side, while rural Georgians tend to speak more slowly. And people in their 20s typically prefer a faster listening pace than people in their 50s.[1] These differences should be considered when determining speaking pace. Having said that, approximately 170 words per minute is an effective speaking pace in most environments.

Projecting Confidence: Putting it All Together

Some people exude confidence and credibility which helps them advance in the workplace and elsewhere; while equally capable people who don’t project credibility often struggle to succeed. Fortunately, that self-assured demeanor can be cultivated if you understand which behaviors support it or undermine it—and practice accordingly. This article offers a place to start. For a more in-depth discussion about projecting confidence and competence, read The Credibility Code by Cara Hale Alter.

 

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[1] http://www.trainingmag.com/content/projecting-confidence-and-competence


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