5 Keys To Appearing Confident Even When You’re Not

Amy Cuddy, Susan Cain, and other key leaders have said, “Fake it til you make it” or Fake it till you become it.” Careful!

Too much acting takes away from our sense of authenticity and honesty, especially if we claim these as part of our high core values.

I do believe self-talk is powerful, and to start something when we are not confident takes courage and is the basis for rich learning. So we tell ourselves whatever we have to  in order to minimize fear and stretch for new learning. What we communicate to others needs to reflect the values we believe. If we compromise those, we may leave an internal scar – one we feel and deal with for a long time.

Communication, inward and outward, is everything to our success at home and work. In each interaction it is not what you communicate but how you communicate that makes all the difference. Business interactions range from big egos and hot-headed temperaments, to people who are silent during key discussions. Communication must be respectful so it’s received well by our counterparts. To align our self-talk and outward ambitions, here are 5 ways to authentically prepare ourselves with emotional control, insight, charisma, and courage to voice our ideas and respectfully champion them.

1. Be clear on our views.
To be confident when communicating with your boss, a senior executive, or a prospective customer, you have to be clear on your views. The more clarity you have going into a conversation, the more your ideas will be received with thoughtful interest. When communicating, worry less about stepping out of line. If we believe that our ideas can make a significant contribution, then voice them. It is worth the risk.

2. Be prepared.
Get to the point. I’ve watched too many smart people trip over themselves trying to express everything they know on a subject. Clarity and directness give us power and authority, especially when we’re trying to communicate with higher level executives. State our ideas with simple stories and clarity. Stories Rule – our minds think in visuals not font. No Story – No Impact. One further caution: Leading with an apology or any type of excuse says, “I’m not prepared, and I am more concerned with the relationship and being liked, versus being respected and relevant.”

3. Have evidence, metrics, analysis, and research and use less gut feel.
It is intimidating to stand up to dissenting views, particularly if the opposition is coming from those in higher positions. Whenever you present something new, expect to be challenged, then rise to the occasion by citing the evidence and research forming your position. Show your conviction without being defensive or aggressive, both of which advertise a lack of confidence and undermine the validity of your idea to the powers that be. When confronted or questioned, first acknowledge the other person’s point of view, then firmly and cordially demonstrate the valid reasons you see things differently.

4. Dead Man’s Curve – Questions
If you are presenting to 8 senior managers, and after you make a key statement or show a key slide, 4 hands all go up at once… take a break, run, or throw-up – all of which are better than trying hand-to-hand combat with sharks. Hands up might mean blood in the water. If we are presenting and expected to be the subject matter expert, questions are largely not the goal, it should be more like a lawyer’s summation. If we are facilitating a group that has  knowledge, then questions are excellent. As facilitator, our job is to pull the learning into a pool of shared meaning. For boardroom and instructional presentations, while being personable, we should know the boundaries of the questions we want to answer or be asked.

5. Provide Critical Thinking
People are impressed with other people, that make them think. If while we present, attendees simply sit and listen while also looking at their phone; I would not tell other people after you present, that “it went great.”- It most likely didn’t. The next time someone is presenting to you, ask yourself, “What am I learning?” “What story, evidence, or perspective did they bring to me that I disagree or want to know more?”. Our opportunity to be confident, is viewed by others, as less about our content and more our medium. What thoughtful ideas, suggestions, and insights can we bring? Focus on how to present, discuss, and share – really plan our 1:1, using all of our communication skills, like voice inflexion, key phrases, and stories we have rehearsed, instead of dumping more data on a slide.

Confidence can be earned by watching others appearing to be confident, and then practicing those talents.


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