Over and over, business professionals, life coaches, dating gurus, and basically all social scientists agree: We give a great deal of currency to confidence. Confidence is compelling. Confidence is catching. Confidence is the most attractive, hirable, respectable, powerful trait a person can demonstrate. So what do you do if you’re not confident — can you convince those around you that you’re confident when you aren’t?
The appearance of confidence is constructed from many separate elements, including (but not limited to) biological responses to fear or nerves, the words we choose, and the way we speak. We’ve all, for example, suffered from a wavering voice at a time when we’d much rather be sonorous and sure-sounding. Or perhaps, you’ve found your hand shaking during an especially tense meeting. But there are also more subtle cues that let the people around us know that we are or are not confident — particularly, our body language.
Without realizing it, nervous or self-doubting individuals will often fold into themselves, in what Science of People founder and body language expert Vanessa Van Edwards calls “low power” poses.
Conversely, those who are confident — or really good at faking it — will take up more space; standing up straight, exposing the arms and hands, and generally being more of a presence all count as what Vanessa calls “power” body language. and while you may not have ever noticed this in your own life, chances are, it has impacted you in some way.
In studies of social interactions in the workplace, Vanessa explains, participants who demonstrate “power” posture have been seen as more competent and hirable. Which means something as simple as how you sit can make you more likely to get jobs and be viewed as an authority. It’s that important.
“Just having confident body language can effect every aspect of your presence, of how you interact with people,” Vanessa explains. “Emotions and body language are inter-connected.”
Additionally, Vanessa explains, participants in studies where they mimic confident body language actually report feeling more confident; power body language not only nets you hire marks, but it also makes you feel better about yourself.
“It’s not just about how other people see you; it’s about how you internally feel,” she says. Depending on how you stand or hold yourself, your body releases different hormones — including testosterone — which can, if you harness them, quell those tics, like shaky hands and a meek voice.
To ensure that your body language isn’t selling you out — even when you’re not feeling as confident as you’d like to come across — Vanessa suggests taking physical action to give yourself a boost. All you need to do is make yourself physically larger. Stretch your arms, push your shoulders back, extend your legs a little wider.
“The more expansion, the more confident. The more space you take up, the more powerful you feel.”