How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Confident Body Language
How do some people appear confident, while others seem unsure or anxious in some ways? If you can get others to think you are confident, then they may well trust and believe you more easily. In contrast, if you appear uncertain, how can they accept what you say as being true?
Anxious people are tense, and it shows. Their bodies are always moving, typically in jerky movements that betray their muscular tension.
When an anxious person is standing, they typically get 'happy feet', stepping around the place. A confident person is comfortable standing in one place, without even tapping their feet.
Balance your weight evenly, with feet planted a hip-width apart. When weight is on one leg, it indicates readiness to move. When you are balanced, you are firmly planted, indicating intent to stay and having no fear of attack.
When sitting, place yourself comfortably, leaning back in the seat rather than anxiously forward. You may put your hands on your lap or behind your head when relaxing, or steeple them when making evaluative decisions.
Keep the lower body still, with both feet planted on the ground or loosely crossed for comfort. Entwined or twitching legs are signs of anxiety.
One of the simplest ways to show confidence is to hold your head still. Anxious people are always looking for threats. Fix on a point in front of you to help you keep your head in one place.
Keep your head upright and with your chin level, as if you were suspended from a point at the crown of your head. Anxious people tend to hold the chin low, originally in order to protect the vulnerable neck from attack.
We often wave our arms about when talking or clasp them together when concerned. While you can make smaller movements, generally you can allow them to be still, resting in your lap or hanging at your side. A common confident pose with hands is held lightly in front or behind the back (this is typical of royalty and presidents). Holding one's own hands can be seen as a sign of anxiety so do be careful with this.
Fidgeting is a sign of anxiety. Confident people can keep their hands still without the need to move or hide them. Showing one's hands is a way of building confidence as it indicates you are not twitchy, have no weapons nor are balling fists. For this reason it is a good idea to keep your hands out of any pockets, although thumbs lightly in pockets can indicate a casual confidence.
A common effect of anxiety is that people speed up, speaking faster and moving their body quickly. A confident person does not need to act quickly and shows this by acting at a measured and steady pace.
When you move, do so steadily. This does not mean going at an unnaturally slow rate, although it might seem this way. This may feel so strange, it can be useful to get feedback from someone else as to what seems natural and relaxed.
Also reduce the speed of your speech. We think much faster than we talk and it is easy to end up speaking so fast others cannot understand us. They may also assume our fast talk is related more to anxiety than thinking speed.
In movement, take good-sized strides, rather than timid or hurried steps.
As well as generally going slower, add pauses, both in your speech and your movement. For example when you are getting up, move to edge of the seat, pause, then get up. Likewise when walking, point the way you are going, then step.
Pausing sends a signal to other people, letting them process what you are about to do and so reduces the chance of them being surprised or worried. This is just one way that confident people inspire confidence in others.
Even a period of silence or inaction can be comfortable for a confident person. Silence is unsettling for many and it can hence be a useful persuasive device that also enhances your image of quiet confidence.
When we are feeling anxious, we tend to cover ourselves with our hands and bodies, protecting vulnerable areas from attack. Confident people do not feel the need to defend, and show this with a clear openness.
Confident people feel able to express emotions, including with movement of their bodies. They tend not to over-do emotion as people who are too expressive really be seeking sympathy or trying to coerce others. Confident people do not need to do this. They also smile more, including with their eyes.
Above all else, a confident person appears natural. They do not look like they are managing their body, nor that they need to do so. For this reason, confident body language is often evidence of real confidence as opposed to it all being an act.
Anxious people hedge their bets, already being ready to escape. If you are confident, you can be direct, without sending a signal that you are uncomfortable and ready to leave at a moment's notice. Instead, you can confidently engage with the other person, showing you feel safe.
Greet people assertively, looking them in the eyes and smiling. Keep your body relaxed. When you shake hands, do so with a firm grip (but not one that is aggressively strong).
When engaging with another person, you may face them directly, perhaps leaning in. Do not do this in a dominant way, getting too close too soon. Dominant people often have insecurities and use aggression to cover up a lack of confidence.
Confident people look at others. They do not need to scan their environment in search of threats. They hold people with their gaze, which is relaxed and without either narrowing nor opening wide the eyes.
Anxious or dominant people often feel the need to speak. Confident people do not need their beliefs verified nor their egos stroked, and so are comfortable just listening, which is of course a great way to get closer to other people.
A confident person makes limited, firm and smooth gestures, typically to amplify what they are saying. They neither defensively hold themselves in nor make large power moves that grab space. They often use open, relaxed palms.
At root, confidence is a lack (or effective control) of fear. A confident person does not feel threatened by others, as many of us do. This can lead to false confidence and naivety when there is a real threat, which is why an effectively confident person has a realistic threat assessment and may well have a contingency ready so they know they can cope with dangers as they appear.
There is a fine line between others interpreting your body language as being a sign of confidence or or arrogance, so care is needed here. A quietly confident person is liked and admired. An arrogant person, on the other hand, is disliked and despised. The difference is that the arrogant person uses confidence to gain status as they feel (or want to feel) superior to others. The quietly confident person, on the other hand, feels equal to others.