How to appear confident quickly
People often talk about confidence as if it is just one thing. But that broad term actually encompasses a number of different skills. For example, I distinguish between two main components. One of these is internal-emotional confidence, which is the extent to which we feel confident in our own minds – the private part of ourselves that may feel nervous or insecure, even if the people around us can’t detect it. The other part is to do with what I call outward-social confidence, or the degree to which we appear confident in social and public settings to other people.
In the long-term, scientific evidence suggests that working on our internal-emotional confidence may have the most benefit, because it can have a positive impact on our outward-social confidence too. But that often takes time.
There are lots of situations in which you may need to appear more confident quickly. For example, if you apply for a job, you may be invited to an assessment centre, in which you may need to have a discussion with other job candidates while assessors observe you and rate your conversational skills. Or you may need to give a presentation, network at an event, attend a party, and so on.
So here I’ve collected three quick, evidence-backed techniques for appearing more confident quickly. All three techniques (as well as many more, of course) come from my Confidence 2.0: The New Science of Self-Confidence book. And you can read more about internal-emotional confidence versus outward-social confidence in the book too.
Write about a time you felt happy
In one study, researchers Gavin Kilduff and Adam Galinsky asked small groups of people to interact with each other for 20 minutes. Some of the participants were asked to write about a time they felt happy. Others were asked to write about a time they felt dejected. And still others were asked to write about a recent shopping trip, i.e. a neutral, non-emotional topic.
The researchers quickly found that the participants who simply spent a few minutes writing about a prior occasion in which they felt happy were rated as visibly more assertive.
I know the technique sounds almost a bit too simple. But try it. Perhaps in the minutes before a job interview or on your journey to a party, just spend 5 minutes writing about any time in your life that you felt happy.
Physical exercise affects us on both a physiological and psychological level. So I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that even walking briskly can help you to be more energetic and alert.
Again, if you’re about to go into an interview or a social event, allow yourself enough time so that you can do a stretch of brisk walking. Or if you end up having to wait around, do at least consider pacing around to keep yourself buoyant and alert.
Assume an expansive posture
One of the ways that people judge your level of confidence is by looking at your body language. It may not be true that people who cross their arms or legs feel less confident. But it is definitely the case that people who cross their arms and legs are judged to appear less confident.
It may not be socially appropriate for you to stretch your legs out or sit with your knees wide apart. But at least free your elbows from your rib cage and allow your hands to move in the space around you.