Confidence is a character trait easily spotted in those who have it. It can be seen in the way a person enters a room or by the way they move. Strong posture, body language, and communication all have the power to demonstrate confidence. Why do some people have it while others only wish they did?
While it may be easy to believe confident people were born that way, it is a learned skill. Confidence requires self-reflection, intentional awareness, and ongoing practice before it becomes a permanent behavior. It’s a necessary trait to master for influence and success. In fact, research shows people prefer to follow those who demonstrate confidence in a topic versus those who are actually topic experts.
Leaders recognize that strong communication skills are key to exuding confidence and earning the ability to influence others to act upon what they have to say. Dina Krasikova, management professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, found that maintaining confidence is key for leaders to be creative and successful.
To become a confident professional, use these five tips to master five important confidence habits.
5 Communication Skills That Demonstrate Confidence
People who demonstrate confidence know how to listen intently. They do not feel the need to always speak, share their input, or interrupt. Confidence is the willingness to let others have a turn. Confident leaders recognize they do not always have the answers and that mindful listening is necessary to learn.
- Avoid filler words
Speaking with confidence means avoiding filler words that make you sound uncertain or confused, such as “like,” “um,” and “uh.” It also means avoiding phrases that cast doubt on what you have to say, such as “Honestly,” “I mean,” and “Well…” Filler words and phrases add no value to the conversation and create extra noise for your listeners to decipher. Confident communicators are clear and succinct. They get to the point quickly and without fuss.
- Slow down
People who lack confidence and show nervous energy usually race through their words to make a point. Their fast rate of speech makes it hard to understand and fails to influence listeners to act on what they have to say. Confident speakers are sure of their words. They slow down and speak at a comfortable rate, allowing listeners to tune into their words, not their nervousness. Confident speakers also know the power of the pause.
Pausing in-between thoughts and topics provides time for words to resonate with listeners and emphasizes a point before moving on.
Using your hands while communicating can help emphasize your point. It provides energy to the words and compliments the importance of your message. While hand gestures are a great way to exude confidence, there is a right and wrong way to put them to use. For instance, too many gestures can make you look erratic and nervous; too few can make you look tense and uncomfortable. Mastering hand gestures will help your message resonate with listeners and help you influence them to act.
- Proper posture
Body language conveys a message to others before your words ever do. Maintaining proper posture is key to exuding confidence. Stand up straight with your weight evenly distributed on both feet. Avoid slouching or leaning. Keep your head up and make eye contact with others. Ensure your hands are resting comfortably at your side. Avoid folding them in front of you or fidgeting.
5 Tips to Make Confident Communication Skills Permanent
For your communication skills to demonstrate confidence, you must determine what is working and what is not. One of the most effective ways to identify weaknesses is to witness them directly. Videotape yourself giving presentations and hosting business meetings. Then, immediately watch the playback to determine if your communication methods are aligned with the way you were feeling at that moment. We often think we are demonstrating confidence when we speak, only to discover our body language, vocal tone, and choice of words say otherwise.
Getting thorough, honest feedback can help us become more aware of opportunities to improve. Find someone you trust: a peer, colleague, mentor, or friend, who will honestly assess your communication skills and provide you with constructive feedback. You can also request feedback after a presentation or meeting. Ask others to give you specific feedback on how you did, what was clear, and what needs to be improved.
Habits are easy to form and hard to break. People tend to fall back into old habits when there is a lack of accountability and commitment to change. Find someone you trust to help hold you accountable to the communication goals you set. Establish ongoing goals that must be practiced, met, and reported on in each meeting. Commit to honor their time and attention by showing up prepared and having done the work.
Once you’ve become aware of your weaknesses, you’ll easily spot them moving forward. Mindfulness helps reveal opportunities to correct bad habits. Commit to daily practice in all conversations — high stakes or casual chitchat. Practice presentations in front of a recording device and watch the playback. Notice what still needs work and what you’ve improved. Continue practicing until you routinely display the positive attributes of a confident communicator. Practice makes permanent.
Improving your communication skills requires ongoing work. The most confident leaders recognize they are a continual work in progress. The only way to keep getting better is to always repeat Steps 1 through 4. Harvard research professors Michael Norton and Francesca Gino found that rituals can make you feel more confident in the action. Continually seek feedback and observe yourself in conversations. Maintain a commitment to an accountability partner and practice your new skills at every opportunity.
If you’re ready to exude confidence in your daily communication, then assess your current habits, get feedback, and practice daily. Soon these five habits will become your new normal and people will believe you were born that way.
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