The subtle art of displaying confidence without saying a word

There is something so beautiful in someone knowing exactly who they are and what they’re capable of, you feel it even without them saying a word. 

That level of confidence is almost breathtaking. It’s something I’m still working on myself.

“Working on”, you say? Yes. Confidence is a skill, after all.

Confidence is something we can learn, practice, and get better at. And sure, some have a headstart and are more confident from the get-go. 

However, for a lot of us, that’s not the case at all. And if you’re here, there’s a chance you’re on this boat of not-quite-confident-yet. That’s okay. 

Let’s both learn the subtle art of displaying confidence without saying a word. 

1) Body language

I believe that first impressions matter, but I’m lukewarm over it needing to last. First impressions can evolve, first impressions should evolve. 

However, there are just some cases where first impressions are all you have. And to that, I say, better make it count. 

As you walk into a room and before you even say a word, make your confidence known

Body language is a good tool to utilize here. The way you stand and sit, your nonverbal cues, your handshake, your degree of eye contact, etc.

Posture

I need to be honest, I have the posture of a banana. Hours upon hours sitting in front of a computer will do that. It’s the opposite of a confident posture, or so say the experts. 

Which doesn’t bode well for me as posture and how you carry yourself have an impact on looking more confident (and feeling confident, although the experts are on the fence about that one.)

A confident posture includes:

  • Keeping your chin and head up.

  • Standing up straight. 

  • When standing, keep a stance that’s a foot apart.

Eye contact

Eye contact can be quite intense, but when utilized properly, can be a very powerful tool to show confidence, assertiveness, and self-esteem. 

In fact, body language expert and author Lillian Glass said that strong eye contact is the single greatest indicator of confidence

Adding, “Confident people are always looking up, never down at the table, the ground, or their feet. Whether in conversation or just walking in the office hallway, they’re looking at other people. They’re engaging them through their eye contact.”

Mirroring

The first time I came across the concept of mirroring was as a teenager watching reruns of Tyra Banks’ talk show, I can’t even remember what episode it was although the concept did stay with me.

Throughout my life, I’ve continuously encountered this term, but more so in the concept of empathy. 

Which is it, though?

Well, Science of People defines it as, “Mirroring, also known as mimicking or Gauchais Reaction, is a nonverbal technique where a person copies the body language, vocal qualities, or attitude of another person.” 

“It is usually done subconsciously and can indicate interest or even attraction. Mirroring can occur many times throughout a social interaction and often goes unnoticed.”

By this definition, we can say that mirroring denotes interest, which is useful if you want to show that you’re paying attention. 

In the same article from Science of People, they warned that it’s better to be subtle about mirroring someone and keep to the positive nonverbals. Refrain from mirroring negative actions like turning or looking away, blocking with your arms folded, and closing your eyes.

2) Active listening

“If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk.” – soldier, writer, and founder of the world Scouting movement, Robert Baden-Powell

This may be an unpopular opinion but I think confidence is not only having the guts to be the first to speak even when no one else would, but it’s also the knowledge of knowing when you only need to listen.

Confidence is knowing you don’t have to be the loudest voice in the room to prove a point. Still, waters run deep, after all. 

Saying that, let’s talk about Active Listening. 

The United States Institute of Peace defines it as “Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. It is an important first step to defuse the situation and seek solutions to problems.”

Indeed.com also defines it as, “[T]he ability to focus completely on a speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information and respond thoughtfully.”

From being solution-oriented to being able to focus solely on somebody, to being able to comprehend information and respond thoughtfully, these are actions that show you are capable. 

3) Show up exactly as you are

common traits shared by people who are truly happy in life The subtle art of displaying confidence without saying a word

“Life’s a video game and the currency is confidence.” -Rose Han, YouTuber and Finance Expert.

As I said at the start, confidence is something I’m still actively working on. There are, however, things I’ve already learned.

To be square with you, I used to believe I needed to be loud about my confidence. It does have its merits, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not a badge I’m willing to wear all the time. (First of all, it’s exhausting.) 

I’m a homebody through and through and socializing is always up for debate, although I’d rather not. I would rather be quietly observing rather than actively participating.

I do not mind being in the background. I do not mind sharing the spotlight, I do not mind giving up the spotlight at all either.

And it’s very, very clear to me that this is not cowardice. It’s confidence. 

Confidence to show up exactly as I am on any given day. Confidence to say no to what doesn’t ring true to who I am and what I stand for.

Confidence to reject the conventional.  Confidence to be who I am, no ifs and buts. Confidence to be rejected for who I am than to be accepted for who I am not.

Confidence to not conform to what others tell me I should be and instead follow what is true to me. 

That’s the keyword, isn’t it? “True to me.”

A note on confidence not being a one-size-fits-all situation

The great thing about confidence is that it could look different from one person to another. Certainly, my background character tendencies might not suit you. You might be more front and center about it.

And your brand of confidence could even differ from day to day. How you choose to present yourself, and all your changing likes and dislikes can change. It’s as dynamic as you are. 

Those are all valid. 

And even on days that you can’t muster up enough pep in your step to even fake confidence, that’s alright, too. 

It won’t erase the progress you’ve already accumulated. Just remember to always be true to you.

4) Don’t panic.

Confidence is not a matter of knowing that things will always go well, confidence is a matter of knowing you’re capable of adapting.

So, don’t panic. I do know that’s easier said than done, though. 

During high-stress situations, don’t we all usually gravitate towards the person who is keeping things under control? Who can remain calm and think things through? 

The one who, in the face of a problem, does not panic sees the problem in a better perspective. Cool, calm, and collected.

Does that sound like you?

One more thing about not panicking, you don’t fight for what isn’t yours. You don’t panic when it’s not yet your time to thrive.

That knowledge that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be, that what is yours is already yours, and your turn will not be taken away. 

5) Be open to being wrong.

And lastly, being open to being wrong. 

How willing are you to admit you’re wrong? Be honest.

I ask this because in a world of “Everyone Has an Opinion on Everything Even When It Doesn’t Concern Them”, it’s so easy to forget our opinions are not facts. 

What separates the arrogant from the confident is how they function within the margin of error. The arrogant will refuse to be corrected.

The arrogant will talk over you. The arrogant will not listen. 

Meanwhile, the confident will listen and adapt accordingly. This isn’t to say that one needs to be fickle and change opinions left and right, this is to say that the confident is willing to learn.

Confidence is not a matter of always being right, confidence is a matter of knowing there are gaps in your knowledge and there is still so much more to learn. 

Honestly, operating under the notion that there is always someone much smarter than you in any room will save you the trouble. (And between you and me, I have learned throughout the years that there really is always someone much smarter than me in any room I’m in.)

To wrap it all up

If there’s anything that you take away from this, even just one thing, I hope it’s the idea that confidence is something you can get better at. 

And like all skills, in the process of learning, sometimes you will get it wrong. 

And you know what? That is okay!

Every bit is a learning experience. You get to carve the meaning of confidence to what will suit you. You will learn skills that others will be better or worse at. 

Sure, the guidelines, the lists, and the articles will be helpful, but what will be most important is your willingness to work for it. 

The road to confidence might start rocky, and there will be days that you need to fake it, but one day soon you will wake up and realize that you no longer need to.

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Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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