Join Carol Kinsey Goman for an in-depth discussion in this video Conveying confidence, part of Body Language for Leaders.
- One of the most charismatic leaders I've met was the president of a high-tech company in Silicon Valley. I once asked Sue how she managed to stay so upbeat and confident while her company was dealing with fierce competition in the marketplace. Sue looked me right in the eyes and said with a smile, "I fake it." While trying to fake confidence when you feel uncertain is tricky, but there are two valid options that are so powerful, they not only change the way others perceive you, they actually change the way you feel about yourself.
You can use an acting technique, or you can strike a power-pose. One strategy requires a little preparation. The other takes about two minutes. The first technique for conveying confidence is based on the method, an approach to acting that draws on real but past emotions. For example, an actor preparing for a role that involves fear would recall something from the past that actually frightened him. Then, the actor would bring that genuine emotion into the part he was playing.
Well, as a leader, you obviously have different goals than in actor in a play or movie, but the preparation is fundamentally the same. Let's say you're getting ready for an important meeting where you want to exude confidence. Here's how you'd use the method to go about it. You'd begin by thinking of a time when you were genuinely enthused and confident. Now, this doesn't have to be taken from your professional life, although I do urge you to keep a business success log so that whenever you need a confidence boost, you can quickly remind yourself of how good you are, but what's really important for this technique is identifying the right set of emotions.
The next step is to picture that past success clearly in your mind, and as you do, remember the feelings of confidence, enthusiasm, and accomplishment that you felt at the time. It also helps to recall or even imagine how you looked and sounded as you embodied that state of mind. The last step is to picture yourself at that upcoming meeting with the same positive attitude and confidence that you had in the past. The more you repeat this mental exercise, seeing yourself at the upcoming meeting, confident, upbeat, and sure of yourself, the more you increase the likelihood that you'll go into that meeting with a positive body language that's automatically triggered by your authentic and powerful past emotions.
The second technique comes from research at Harvard and Columbia business schools. You already know that the way you feel is reflected in your body. If you're depressed or discouraged, you're likely to round your shoulders, slump, and look down, and when you're upbeat and self-assured, you straighten your posture, pull back your shoulders, and hold your head high, but did you know that changing your body posture changes your emotional state and the way that others perceive you? Try this.
Put your body in a high-power pose. Think Superman or Wonder Woman, and stand with your feet wide apart and your hands on your hips. Studies show that holding your body in a high-power pose like this for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone, that's the hormone linked to power, and lower levels of cortisol, one of your stress hormones. In addition to causing hormonal shifts in both men and women, researchers found that these poses increase feelings of power and a higher tolerance for risk.
They also validated what I've always known to be true, that people are more influenced by how they feel about you than by anything you say. The next time you find yourself in a situation in which you want to project your most confident self, you have two choices. Before that important event, prime your brain by recalling past successes, or go into your office, close the door, and strike a power pose.