Confession: I am a nervous giggler. When I get nervous, especially in front of crowds of people, I giggle even when there’s absolutely nothing funny going on. Once, in an acting class, I was preparing a piece with another student to perform and I swear I didn’t make more than two run-throughs of the script without bursting into laughter. It was aggravating and embarrassing and I’m pretty sure that guy was praying I’d get the chicken pox just to get me out of his hair. I’m not a bad actress, and I’ve since gotten over my stage fright, but I’m always afraid I’ll get into another situation like that again and giggle myself out of a great opportunity.
We all have times when we feel less than confident, even if we normally have good self-esteem. First dates, job interviews, having lunch with that disapproving aunt who keeps asking why you haven’t married rich and why you’re not the CEO of Google by now… No one is 100% confident 100% of the time. Here are some of my tips for faking that confident swagger even when you have no idea what you’re doing.
1. Bigger is better. It worked for Henry VIII, and it can work for you: relax your muscles and take up as much space as you can without looking utterly ridiculous. Don’t sit up straight on the edge of your chair like you’re in the principal’s office. Sit back, use the arm rests, stretch out your legs instead of crossing them. If you need desk or table space, use it the way you would your own desk or table, don’t just take up the little corner allotted to you. Filling up space is a visual indicator of confidence, while people who are unsure tend to shrink nervously like they’re trying to make themselves invisible. Own your own space, and you’ll look like you own the whole room, even if you don’t feel like it.
2. Preparation, preparation, preparation. If you can prepare yourself, it’ll make you look polished and even perhaps give you some actual confidence for the task ahead instead of just faking it. It can be something as simple as remembering to take tissues to wipe off your sweaty palms, or having a few unusual ice breaker questions ready for a lull in the conversation.
3. Listen. Don’t spend the whole time focusing on yourself and worrying about what to do or say. Take a breath and focus on what the other people around you are saying or doing, and only think about a response when they are finished. It’ll allow you to respond thoughtfully, and save you from blurting out something you didn’t mean to!
4. Smile. Smiling sends a message to your brain that you’re happy, even if you’re not, and releases the appropriate chemicals. It can be a great way to trick yourself into relaxing, and it also shows those around you that you’re having a good time and are relaxed.
5. Do something with your hands. Fidgety hands demonstrate nervousness, and can even be misread as an indication of lying. Occupy your hands with a drink, focus on how you’re holding the mic, or offer to hold something for someone else in order to occupy your fidgety fingers.
6. Don’t use wishywashy words. This is the moment to pretend that you’re a witness to a crime, and are being cross-examined by a cutthroat defense lawyer. “I think he went out the back door” will get you annihilated on the stand. “He went out the back door.” doesn’t give him reason to doubt how sure you are (even if you’re not). Avoid phrases like “I think”, “I believe”, words like “probably”, or “might”, and filler words like “um”. It will make you sound like you know your stuff and are confident in your ideas.
7. Know what you want. What do you want from that interview? What do you want from giving that wedding toast? It might sound simple, but when you have clear, specific goals to fixate on, it’s easier to get there. It’s easy to get sidetracked, go off on a tangent, or try to fit so much information into someone else’s brain at once that nothing fits at all. Being specific about your intentions means that other people will be more likely to understand them, and that you’ll have a better idea of how to get there even if you’re mostly winging it.
What are your confidence faking tips? Let me know in the comments!