Do you struggle with being confident in meetings, especially when giving presentations?
Ever heard of the phrase, “Fake it ‘till you make it”? Appearing self-confident, even if you don’t feel confident inside, can lead to more opportunities, higher pay, and even that promotion you’ve been waiting for.
Job performance, confidence, and prosocial behaviour (behaviour that benefits other people) are the three main components for success in the modern workplace. While job performance isn’t something that you can fake, when it comes to confidence, “fake it ‘till you make it” might actually be the best approach.
By imitating confidence at work, you can actually become more self-confident as a result. In fact, one 2012 study from The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology found that when we expect to know the correct answers, our test results actually improve. Through this confidence, you can achieve the results that you are looking for in your career, and more.
Learning to project confidence in meetings is an especially important skill for professional working women. Research shows that although women are now more highly educated than men and makeup almost half the workforce, we are often erroneously perceived as less confident than male colleagues.
As confidence is seen as a necessary leadership trait, women, therefore, receive less promotions and pay raises than their counterparts. Research, covered in Forbes, highlights that while many women are in fact more competent in many areas, they are also more wary of self-promotion, because women who appear more self-confident are statistically perceived as unlikeable and unpromotable in the workplace.
In fact, when applying for jobs, men are confident in their abilities at 60%, while many women do not feel confident until they are 100% competent. The research shows the problem: women have convinced themselves that exhibiting self-confidence as a woman is not a trait to be rewarded in the workplace.
While self-confidence at work may be easier for men than for women, appearing confident at work as a woman of course has the same career-enhancing benefits that it does for men. Research from the Journal of Human Resource Management found that women seeking professional success should try to demonstrate a mix of self-confident and prosocial behaviour to get ahead.
‘Prosocial behaviour’ in the workplace refers an employee’s helpful behaviour that benefits their colleagues and the organisation. Demonstrating leadership qualities such as empathy, helping, sharing, and cooperating, can make women in the workplace be perceived as self-confident, without appearing unlikeable.
This phenomena has been termed ‘The Confidence Gap’ between the genders. Still, it is important that women in the workplace present themselves with more self-confidence. As CNN Journalist Claire Shipman put it, “we all subconsciously assume that the person who speaks the loudest, who appears the most self-assured and certain in the room, must simply know more than the others“.
How can I be Confident in Meetings
From the way you stand, to the way you speak – how you present yourself while in a meeting (and out) can have many benefits for your career.
Boost Your Knowledge
Although research shows that there is no association between confidence and competence, appearing more confident to your colleagues and boss will help you to show your competence in the workplace. Being more certain of yourself means eliminating your self-doubt. Read up and educate yourself in areas that you might lack knowledge. Boosting your knowledge can really be the best way to end self-doubt in meetings.
One way to show that you are actively engaged in the conversation is to demonstrate active listening while in a meeting. Never be afraid to ask questions and clarify anything that you are unsure about. The worst way to boost your confidence at work is doing a task incorrectly because you didn’t fully understand the brief. If you ever feel unsure, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Use Positive Language
This goes for the way you talk to others as well as the way you talk to yourself.
Using positive language will help people to understand that you are a go-getter who is interested in finding effective solutions for problems. It will boost their confidence in you – as well as your confidence in your own abilities.
If you find yourself using negative self-talk or doubting yourself unfairly, stop this habit in its tracks and try to work on developing a positive mindset. Stop using the word ‘but’, or ‘I can’t’ – and flip the sentence to ‘and’ and ‘I could/can’. Through the language you use, talk to yourself kindly and encouragingly.
Stop slouching. Stand Tall. Take up Space
Confident body language does wonders, not only for how other people perceive you, but also how you perceive yourself. In her TED talk, Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School social psychologist, found that just by striking a powerful pose, the human body releases hormones like testosterone, a hormone related to confidence and dominance.
Stand up as tall as you can and take wide, slow, surefooted steps. This may subconsciously assure people that you are confident and deliberate with your actions.
Make Eye Contact
Ever heard the advice that it’s important to hold eye contact with certain animals to establish dominance? According to findings from the Idiap Research Institute, humans are not that much different. Making eye contact gives an important nonverbal social cue that projects self-confidence, self-esteem and assertiveness.
Wear Dark Colours
It is a well-known that many politicians wear certain colours on the campaign trail. Take notice next time you watch the news. Politicians normally wear blue to convey trustworthiness and help you believe that they are just an ‘Average Joe’.
The way you dress is important, especially in a professional setting – and especially if you are presenting in a meeting or doing a job interview. Dark colours make people seem more confident and professional, so next time you have a big presentation, wear black, charcoal, navy, or other dark colours.
Fidgeting is an unconscious comfort tactic that the mind uses when it is stressed or having difficulty concentrating. While fidgeting has been found to help people with attention disorders like ADHD to concentrate better, it does come across to others as a sign of restlessness and nervousness. By keeping fidgeting to a minimum, you will appear more self-assured and self-confident.
Allow Silences. Speak Slowly and Clearly
People appear more confident if they pause before they speak. When someone asks you a question, allow a short silence before you speak. This will allow you to appear more confident, while also giving you more time to consider what you want to say.
When you speak, speak clearly and slowly. A racing mind makes fast speech, so when in a stressful or high-pressure situation, people tend to speak more quickly. Pronouncing your words correctly and carefully considering what you say, will make you look more confident and certain about your words.
Keep Your Hands Visible and Use Gestures
Another tactic that is commonly used by politicians is hand positioning. In the past, a concealed hand could mean a concealed weapon. Keeping your hands in a visible position helps to subconsciously assure other people that you are not a threat to them.
The gestures that you make with your hands can go a long way towards subconsciously projecting confidence. An open, upward-facing palm conveys trustworthiness – while making an ‘OK’ sign with your fingers will come across as authoritative, but not aggressive. A ‘hand-chop’ motion demonstrates forcefulness and intention and is often used by people subconsciously when making an important point.