Confidence: A skill you can develop through intentional practice
Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.
From getting a promotion to prevailing at trial, unequivocal confidence can go a long way in a young attorney’s career. Scientific research has consistently proven that projecting self-esteem can have a significant impact on career success. A semblance of anxiety or hesitation can be disastrous. Thus, whether or not you are super-confident to begin with, it is important to work on building and expanding that confidence.
Your body language, attire, choice of words, and general attitude, even your perfume, can be instrumental in projecting confidence and achieving your goals.
The most common reason for not fulfilling one’s potential is a lack of self-confidence. This elusive quality is not a magical gift some people are born with. You can nurture it and grow it throughout your professional life. Your own actions and the things you tell yourself every day are the source of your belief that you will succeed at problem-solving, leadership, and conflict resolution.
Thanks to cognitive behavioral therapy research, we now know that our thoughts create our emotions. If you tell yourself that you are going to fail, you will feed anxiety and frustration. This will not help you project confidence. But if you focus on your talents and abilities, you will maximize your potential. Our thoughts and actions shape our psyche and our paths through life, and learning to look and sound more confident are part of happiness and success.
Science backs the idea that you can build your confidence. A behavioral geneticist from King’s College London studied 3,700 twins and concluded that self-confidence in an academic environment was 50 percent nature and 50 percent nurture. That last 50 percent can be either zero or 50, your call.
Naturally, over the years, criticism, rejection, and failure can compromise your self-confidence, but if you master these science-backed techniques, you will have the tools to rebuild it. Your concept of self-worth will radiate from within, rather than the other way around, and everyone will notice.
1. Look the Part
First impressions are key in any business relationship. People jump to conclusions fairly quickly when they meet someone for the first time. Nonverbal cues, and especially visual ones, are usually central when assessing self-confidence levels. Research has made many interesting discoveries when it comes to looks that project confidence, from what people are wearing to how they walk.
A survey of 1,000 individuals concluded that, “if you want to feel confident, you're probably going to have to go with black.” Over 560 respondents said they felt people who are wearing black appear more confident. The trend was observable in the case of both male and female respondents.
The researchers also found that people think “black makes people appear more attractive, intelligent, and confident.” Thinking about what to wear for that important interview or client meeting? You may want to look at this graph:
To appear self-confident, black, red, and blue are the colors of choice. On the other hand, if you have any brown-colored business outfits in your wardrobe, now is the time to get rid of them.
Of course, choosing the right color is not enough. The Journal of Experimental Psychology published one study that separated a number of men into three groups. Some were dressed in a suit, others in casual clothes, and the rest in sweatpants. While wearing the provided outfits, the men were asked to roleplay a negotiation. After analyzing the outcome of each negotiation, the researchers concluded that men in suits could obtain better results due to a higher level of performance, dominance, and confidence.
When it comes to women, there has been much talk about powerful women trying to dress like men. The truth is that, even in 2019, a woman in a sleek pantsuit is consistently perceived as capable and confident.
After you found the perfect outfit, scientists believe a nice perfume can be the finishing touch. A study that appeared in the Journal of Cosmetic Science revealed that men wearing cologne are more self-confident and appear more attractive to others.
2. Mind Your Body Language
Focusing only on your outfit and the words you say is not enough to be perceived as confident. More than half of what we communicate is of a nonverbal nature, and body language is its main component.
According to research from the University of British Columbia, a sense of pride makes our bodies appear bigger when we sit or stand tall and own the space around us. An open chest, relaxed shoulders, and an absence of tension convey the notion that you are sure of yourself.
Some postures are associated with defeat, such as slumped shoulders and crossed arms. Research has shown that people who sit upright feel more confident, powerful, and enthusiastic than those who slouch. In one study, subjects who were asked to slouch reported feeling, “fearful, hostile, nervous, quiet, still, passive, dull, sleepy, and sluggish.”
According to one of the study’s authors, "Most of us were taught that sitting up straight gives a good impression to other people. But it turns out that our posture can also affect how we think about ourselves. If you sit up straight, you end up convincing yourself by the posture you're in."
What your eyes and the direction of your gaze say is as important as your posture. It is key to look others in the eye when you are talking to them, and when they are talking to you. Looking around the room indicates fear and lack of interest; in short, the opposite of confidence.
If you are an attorney, especially one that’s starting out, a confident handshake is really important. Putting your hand out, making full palm to palm contact; these gestures indicate you are not afraid and give an impression of trustworthiness.
A handshake is the only touch involved in most professional exchanges. A firm, but not too harsh, handshake, not too short and not too long, accompanied by an honest smile and eye contact, can inspire respect and convey confidence.
For Darlene Price, author of “Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results,” gestures are also important. “Strive to punctuate your words with movement that is natural, lively, purposeful and spontaneous,” she advises. “Be genuinely yourself and let your motions match your message. Avoid common distracting mannerisms such as finger-pointing, fidgeting, scratching, tapping, playing with hair, wringing hands, and twisting a ring.”
3. Talk Like a Winner
People will perceive you as confident not only because of the words you say, but also based on how you say them.
Researchers recently asked people to say hello in different ways: neutral, happy (thinking of things that made them happy), sad (thinking of something that made them sad), adopting a power pose, and angry (thinking of something that had made them angry).
Then, they asked others to rate the different hellos based on their projected level of confidence. The absolute winner was the “happy” hello.
A positive attitude is always a sign of confidence. It implies that you are not afraid of life, defeatist or pessimistic, and that you are ready to take on any challenge.
Other tips to boost your vocal power are to speak in a calm and relaxed tone, and to avoid sounding hesitant. If you say, “this is an important meeting, right?” you seem much less confident than if you simply assert the importance of the meeting and leave the question out.
Vocal resonance is also important. There are many vocal exercises you can do every day to start sounding more confident. According to Arthur Samuel Joseph, a vocal coach who develops these types of exercises for clients on a regular basis, “When we are congruent in mind/body/spirit, no longer afraid to claim our power--confidently embodying who we are capable of being--achievement/fulfillment become the natural outgrowth of this integral integration.”
4. Walk the Walk
The way you walk can make people think you are nervous, confident, happy, stressed, or even arrogant. Stand up straight, don’t hunch your shoulders, avoid walking too slowly or too fast, let your arms fall loosely at your sides, breathe deeply, and greet the people you cross along the way.
5. Think Confident Thoughts
This is probably the most important aspect and the one that will take more work. Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe you can succeed? How confident are you in your talents?
The easiest way to start is to focus on the things you most appreciate about yourself. So, if you have outstanding social skills, you may tell yourself, “I am great with people, I can do anything.”
The most challenging part is to fend off negative thoughts. For example, if you keep thinking, “I am not cut out to be a leader,” the simplest way to tackle that is, when negative thoughts come, to quickly distract your mind from them. This takes training, but it can be achieved. On the other hand, for a permanent solution, you should consider training to improve the skills you feel you lack. In this case, you could take a leadership course.
If you are telling yourself you lack creativity, you can join a painting or a writing class. If you tell yourself you are weak, you could take on martial arts. While you keep fending off those thoughts and developing those skills, you will build confidence and create a more positive mindset.
Daily Confidence-Boosting Activities
Play It Again, Sam
Listening to music can greatly impact your self-confidence. According to research by Northwestern University scientists, music with a good bass line can boost your confidence. The researchers asked students to rate their confidence level after listening to a piece of music twice. The first time with a quiet bass line, and the second time with a louder, more present bass line. After listening to the bass-heavy piece, they said they felt more “powerful, dominant, and determined.”
Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, conducted a peculiar experiment. They monitored the self-assessed confidence level of a group of students throughout the day. They received instructions to take a variety of photos, including selfies and pictures of things they thought would make someone else happy. Interestingly, their self-confidence level was highest after taking selfies.
Go Out in the Sun
Being outdoors and working out have endless benefits for human health, but also for self-confidence. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research found a direct connection between outdoor workout and self-esteem.
Take Up Yoga
From increasing focus and self-control to boosting self-esteem, yoga and mindfulness can increase your confidence in myriad ways. A study entitled “Yoga Poses Increase Subjective Energy and State Self-Esteem in Comparison to ‘Power Poses’” found that positive effects can be observed after a mere two minutes of performing yoga poses.