Being confident is crucial in any endeavor, but it’s easier said than done. I struggled with feeling confident in social situations for my whole life!
But, here’s the thing though: you can totally “fake it till you make it” when it comes to confidence!
Practicing confident body language will not only make you seem confident, but it’ll actually make you feel confident too. This is a proven psychological phenomenon!
Here are 10 body language hacks to project confidence and power!
1) Take up space
If you can only follow one piece of advice from this article, it’s this: take up space.
Taking up space conveys that you feel secure and unafraid. It tells everyone in the room: I’m here, and I deserve to be here.
Here’s how you can do this:
- Use larger hand gestures when speaking;
- Sit widely;
- Avoid scrunching;
- Put your hands on the table;
- Stand up and sit up straight;
- Put your chest out.
On the other hand, smaller and more intricate movements will make you seem shy and timid.
Of course, don’t take up too much space – you’ll seem like you’re trying to make an impression too hard. But you have to take enough space to feel comfortable where you are and demand respect from those around you.
2) Don’t move around too much
While you need to be bold with your body language, you also need to appear refined.
Moving around too much will only make you seem like you can’t find your place in the room. Don’t overdo it: moving when necessary creates energy, but sometimes staying in place can portray power.
Generally, your head and torso should remain still and upright. Moving them too much will only be distracting for most people.
In fact, try to remember and compare a conversation who was sitting still and facing you to someone who was constantly moving their torso or even walking around the room.
Who did you listen to more carefully? Told ya.
3) Be aware of people’s and your own personal space
You need to be socially savvy for your confidence to come across as authentic.
Let’s say you’re speaking with someone. You can choose to lean forward ever so slightly—enough to convey that you’re invested in what they’re talking about.
But if you lean towards too much, it’ll invade their personal space and make them feel uncomfortable.
Standing 2-3 feet apart is the norm in Western culture. If you’re in a different culture, be aware of their norms too.
On the other hand, make sure to cement your own personal space too. For example, when in front of an audience, take a slightly wider stance (with your feet around hip-width apart).
Such a stance emanates power and authority!
4) Be aware of your facial expressions
The way your face looks is just as important as how your body looks. No matter what you’re saying, your facial expressions will actually convey what you’re thinking.
You can never go wrong with a smile to appear confident, whether it’s a cool, subtle smile or a large, beaming one. Smiling shows that you’re confident in your own skin.
But even if you’re not smiling, make sure you don’t appear anxious or agitated. You may have a bad day, like all of us, but if you have an important meeting, it’s better to keep your facial expression neutral or positive rather than negative.
It’s just a necessity in the business world, but when with a friend, there’s no need to pretend.
5) Show your hands
Keep your hands visible.
For starters, avoid putting your hands in your pockets. There’s a misconception that this makes you seem cool and aloof, but in most cases, you only seem timid and afraid.
This is because when we place our hands in our pockets, it makes us look defensive—like we’re hiding something or we’re too nervous.
The same goes for crossed arms. Again, you might’ve heard that it makes you look powerful, but it only makes you seem uninviting and uptight.
6) Mirror other people’s body language
Matching people’s energy is key to building relationships.
Moring other people’s body language is a great way to do this. In fact, we’re already hardwired to this subconsciously!
We tend to sit up straighter when the person we’re with does so. We raise our voices when the other person does too. We tend to loosen up when we see that our companion does the same.
This shows the other person that you’re listening to them. When they know that you’re paying attention, you’ll appear more likable.
They’ll feel good around you and will want to share more with you. On the other hand, you’ll feel more self-assured by being trusted by other people.
It’s a win-win situation that will make you feel better and more confident!
7) Maintain eye contact
The ability to maintain eye contact is crucial to appear confident. Constantly looking away when someone’s speaking to you will make you appear nervous and unsure of yourself.
But, at the same time, just gazing into another person’s eyes all the time will creep them out.
So here’s how you can maintain eye contact without making it weird:
Shift the focus of your eyesight around their face every 2-3 seconds.
So, for example, you can look at their eyes for 3 seconds. Then their nose for two seconds. Then their mouth for two seconds. Then their face as a whole for 3 seconds.
This way, you’ll keep eye contact without making them feel like you’re staring right into them. When you look at other parts of their face, they still feel like you’re paying attention but don’t feel stared at.
Simply do this as you keep talking to them. Here are other tips for maintaining eye contact well:
- When talking to a crowd, devote around 3-4 seconds of direct eye contact with every person you look at. So look at someone for 3-4 seconds, then move to another person for 3-4 seconds, then rinse and repeat.
- Use the “Z” technique: look at someone in the back left corner, then move to the back right corner. Do the same thing for the front.
- In one-on-one settings, don’t look at them directly for more than 10 seconds—doing is a bit too intense for most people. You can take the time to look at other things (like stuff on your table or the area behind them) for a short while before looking at them again.
8) Trim out filler words
Filler words are words that you don’t need in a sentence. They add no value and are simply there to buy time for the speaker to regather their confidence or recall whatever they were supposed to say next.
These are your “like” and “Uhm” and “you know” or “so, yeah.”
We all use them from time to time. But if you add “so, yeah” at the end of every sentence you say, it’ll make you seem unprepared, unsure, unintelligent, and nervous. And most of the time, you are unsure or nervous if you can’t help but use filler words.
You want to be articulate, concise, and eloquent. Be prepared when you have to deliver a speech or talk to someone important.
9) Try to lower your voice
Studies have shown that people prefer those with lower voices. People perceive them as more reliable, more powerful, and more confident.
Why? Well, we’re not sure yet. But my theory is that higher-pitched voices remind people of distressed voices (like someone crying or screaming).
While you can’t do much about the natural pitch of your voice, try speaking in the lower register of your vocal range. Engaging your abdominal muscles while speaking should make this easier to do.
10) Put your hand on your chest
Or, more specifically, your heart. Placing your palm on your heart is a universal symbol of goodwill. This is because this gesture symbolizes opening up or pledging your allegiance to someone.
Therefore, people will instantly think you are honest and trustworthy when you do this. While it may be overdramatic in some contexts, when done in the right ones, you will immediately establish rapport with your audience!
They will be more receptive to what you have to say and feel closer to you.
Why you should be more aware of your body language
We all have mannerisms and often subconsciously perform a certain kind of body language.
We tend to make certain postures, hand gestures, modes of eye contact, or even ways of shaking hands. All these will heavily affect how you interact with others.
So in order to up your social game—unlike most people who don’t think about it—you need to have the self-awareness to control your body language. Then you can portray a more confident version of yourself.
Trust me; it will improve your life in so many ways!
You have a better presence in social situations
By being aware of your body language, you’ll also know how you seem to others. You’ll be able to answer these questions:
- What kind of energy are you giving off?
- What is the people’s perceptions of you?
- In what way does your body language affect how people interact with you?
This awareness equates to knowledge which allows you to become more confident. It also allows you to adjust how you interact based on who you’re talking to or your situation.
This then allows you to maximize the benefits from each and every interaction!
You can read people better
When you track your own body language, you also become aware of other people’s body language!
Experts say that in the span of a simple 30-minute conversation, two people can send almost a thousand non-verbal signals.
I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot more than I ever thought there was. Truly, non-verbal communication is just as much of—or even more of—a factor as verbal communication is.
With this, you can derive more information from the non-verbal signals you see and adjust accordingly. Then, you can truly take control of your social interactions.
It can help prevent conflict
Not only can awareness of body language help you maximize your social interactions, but it can also help you avoid unpleasant ones.
In the same way that you’ll be able to detect if the other person likes you, you’ll also know if they’re getting upset at you.
Then, you can adjust your words and body language again to de-escalate the situation or facilitate reconciliation.
This helps tremendously in ALL aspects of life, from business relationships to personal ones.
Can you overdo body language?
Like with every other aspect of social interactions, there must be an ebb and flow to things—a natural rhythm.
Excessive body language can come across as distracting, overdramatic, desperate, or, counterproductively, unconfident. It can also tell people that you’re not eloquent enough verbally, which is just as important.
Always be aware of who you’re talking to, as well as when and where. Make sure that your body language and gestures are appropriate for the circumstances.
Do different cultures have different norms about body language?
As with other aspects of social life, yes.
Different cultures will interpret different gestures differently.
For example, handshakes might be common in the West, but other cultures might find them too touchy. Or how a certain tone of voice might sound offensive to some cultures but completely normal in others.
That’s why it’s crucial to be self-aware of the culture you’re in to succeed when socializing.
How to read other people’s body languages
As we’ve explored above, being aware of other people’s body language is just as important as being aware of your own. It can make the difference between a successful interaction and a failed one.
It allows you to detect unspoken emotions and read their reactions more deeply. These non-verbal cues are invaluable forms of feedback, but you won’t pick up on them if you’re not on the lookout.
It’s particularly important to look out for negative non-verbal signs. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.
What are examples of negative body language?
Watch out for these gestures and behaviors. They typically imply that the person is uninterested, uncomfortable, or unhappy in one way or another. Here are a few examples of negative body language signs:
- Crossed arms;
- Tense facial muscles;
- Turning their body away from you or towards the door;
- Little eye contact;
- Hunched shoulders.
These non-verbal signs can be exhibited by anyone, from your colleague to your partner. So it’s crucial to keep them on the back of your head.
When you see them, adjust what you’re saying and doing depending on your goals.
Body language in virtual interactions
Nowadays, virtual interactions are a bigger part of our social life.
And surprise, surprise: the principles of body language can be applied to video calls too!
Actually, the fact that you see less of their body might make it even more important to be aware of the little body language cues you do see.
Here are a few ways you can ensure that your virtual interactions go well:
- Set up your camera right. Be close enough to the camera to show that you’re interested (and have room for hand gestures) but not too close so that people can see your pores! It should also be at eye level, as it appears natural and comfortable.
- Have strong eye contact. Treat the camera lens as someone’s eyes. And just as if you’re in front of a physical crowd, shift your eyes from one participant to the other.
- Don’t be afraid to use facial expressions. People will mostly see your face in a video conference, so facial expressions (along with strong eye contact) are especially important. Smile, raise your eyebrows to show interest or amusement, and don’t frown!
In a nutshell
Non-verbal communication is just as important as verbal communication. Understanding body language will make you level up when it comes to being a better speaker, communicator, or conversationalist.
However, don’t too over-fixate on individual gestures. Sometimes, people just perform them out of habit. For example, just because someone has their hands in their pocket doesn’t mean they necessarily feel shy if their tone of voice says otherwise.
As with everything about human behavior, follow certain guidelines, but always remember to make some room for nuance.