In our post The Insider’s Guide to Reading People, we talked about how to read people’s body language. Now, let’s talk about how we can use this to your advantage. After all, it is all about you, isn’t it? (Correct Answer: Yes) After this post, you’ll probably get more insight on how to people – regular people carry their bodies. Everywhere you look you’ll start to analyze how people carry themselves and what they are thinking.
How We Use Body Language to Convey Confidence?
I Can’t Take my Eyes off of You
In How to Talk to Anyone, Leil Lowndes discusses at length about making eye contact. Not only do you look into the person’s eyes when you engage, but you never take your eyes off their eyes. Normally, when people make eye contact, it only lasts a few seconds, and then you look away, or your eyes shift elsewhere before coming aback to their eyes. It physically becomes uncomfortable. Your eyes might start watering. You might feel like you’re violating them. Forget it. Not this time. You lock into their gaze. Continue to blink, but don’t look away. I remember the few times this happened to me. When you are locked into someone’s gaze, the rest of the world seems to disappear. It’s so dramatic. It’s like everything around you goes dark and there’s a spotlight on the two of you. (Cue the motivational music.) Nothing else exists in the world around you. Intense. Try this next time when you engage in conversation with someone. You’ll discover that you have a new sense of power, not necessarily that you want to hold over the person. Weirdly enough, you may suddenly start hearing more of what the person has to say by looking into their eyes.
Shoulders Rolled Back, Sternum Lifted
I teach barre. It’s a fitness class that combines the goodness of ballet, pilates, and yoga. (It’s a deceptively hard work out, by the way) One of my most common cues is “Shoulders rolled back. Pressed down. Lift the sternum.
You can really tell what a person is feeling by looking at their posture. Pay attention to this when you next see a person. Someone whose shoulders are slumped, head hanging low screams a low rate of vibration. The rate of vibration is synonymous with the level of energy that the person has. You’ve likely seen someone, or you have likely experienced something where you are so happy and energetic, you’re just buzzing with excitement! That’s when your rate of vibration is high. On the other hand a person with a low rate of vibration is one who is depressed, sad, likely at the whim of their environment, living life by default. They’re taking whatever comes their way. Beat… even before the fight begins. I get it. Sometimes you just need to take a break. Totally understandable. (By the way, I wouldn’t recommend making any major life decisions when you’re in this state.)
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Never, but never cross your legs. (insert picture of politicians. Where one is crossed, and the other is not)
Happiness as a state of mind goes hand in hand with being confident. This is the gift that keeps on giving. When you are happy, your rate of vibration goes up. Your face exudes the energy. People see you, and they start feeling happy. It’s infectious. In turn, you see them seeing you, and you feed off of their energy level as well. Recall the ‘happiness’ hormones that we all know so well: When you’re happy, there is an increased level of serotonin in your body, dopamine reduces, as does the stress hormone cortisol. Here’s the thing. You don’t have to be highly enthusiastic to exude happiness. Being happy. Being truly happy doesn’t always have to be high energy, high intensity, charismatic. Being happy and being confident has nothing to do with how much ‘rah rah’ you show. Being happy is a lot of things. The top three fool-proof ways to be happy:
When next you have a huge presentation, I can appreciate that you feel your nerves. You’ve got butterflies in your stomach. You’re super concerned about the impression that you’ll make on people and how the presentation will go. Sure. Go ahead. Swim in the nerves for a bit. Then, just for a moment, forget about the crowd. Forget about the presentation. Instead, think of three things. Just three things that you are grateful for in this immediate situation. And remember this. You are there to be of service to your clients. Get out of your own head and focus on how you can add value to your audience, your client, whoever you’re serving. It’s more than just being about you.
Smile Does the Body Good
Smile: The universal message for acceptance. It’s probably one of the most primal acts we as humans have. In the very first months of Zane joining us, I had a book called “What to Expect in the First Year.” Highly recommend this book, if you’re going to be a first-time parent. It outlines month by month the what you should expect as your baby develops. One of the first things that the tell you about is even days after they’re born, babies smile. (Some people may argue that it’s just gas. But hey… when I have gas, I still smile. It’s still legit. So there. Smiling is so primal that we can tell even when dogs smile. (insert image of dog smiling) The point is that, when we smile, we make everyone feel at ease… that they’re accepted. We, in turn, feed off of this, and we feel at ease. We feel accepted. We feel confident.
Exercises to Prime for Confidence
Last year I started listening to TED talks whenever I walk my dog. One Sunday afternoon, I heard Amy Cuddy’s brilliant talk about body language. In the years since I’ve taken to heart what she said about our body language. No one is ever confident 100% of the time. If anyone were to tell you this, they are either in denial or have never stepped out of their comfort zone. In the times that I have ever felt scared, inferior or nervous before stepping into a stressful evaluative situation, I make it a point to first step into the bathroom. I simply close my eyes, and stand there, in the Victory stance: arms extended up in a ‘V’ shape, my feet shoulder-width apart. Chin up. As per Amy Cuddy, I stand there in silence for 120 seconds. Interesting things start to happen. For the first 30 – 40 seconds, I’m still feeling the nerves. I then start to play out how the engagement will go in my head. I picture the polished, authentic delivery of my presentation. I picture them nodding, and smiling. Finally, I picture one of them commenting to me: ‘Great presentation!’ Then I start to feel a sense of excitement in my stomach. A smile breaks out on my face. I’m ready. I’ve pre-played the how the next hour will unfold. At the end of this post, you can see Amy’s full Ted Talk.
Here is Amy’s full Ted Talk:
Feed Your Mind
The key to any successful weight loss program is to fill the stomach with good food: veggies, eggs, superfoods, as opposed to cutting out the junk. Still important, but without our stomach being filled with the good stuff, you’ll cave at the nearest sight of cupcakes… if cupcakes are your kryptonite. Feeding your mind is the same thing. When you’re trying to create a mindset of confidence, you have to feed your mind with brain superfood. What I mean by brain superfood is material that will develop you as a person: personal development books, courses, ITSolopreneurs blog posts, to give a few examples. Here are my top choices (besides my blog posts, of course!)
We’re all the Same Inside
One of my go-to ways to prime for power is to think of people without their skin. Stay with me. I’m not talking about some weirdo Jason skinning people alive, and using their skin to make a mask type shit. Ever been to Body World? It was one of the most fascinating exhibits I’ve ever seen. It, of course, is an exhibit of people’s bodies manipulated in various sport and dance positions. It’s more than that, of course. Experiencing body world, I had an epiphany. First, seeing these models… these lifeless shells made me realize that we are first an energy that has been issued a finite body. That spirit leaves the body, and the body remains as an inanimate shell. Second, more importantly, all these bodies look the same. They all have blood vessels, lungs, a heart, muscles. They all have facial features. I stood there, admiring the way the skinless body hoisted in a gymnastics iron cross position, I wondered what kind of life that this body led when the spirit was there before. What was he like when was alive? It was mind-boggling to think that these mannequins were actually once a neighbor, a father, a brother, a son…or even a felon.
You know what? It doesn’t even matter because at the end of the day we all look the same inside. No one is better than anyone else. It doesn’t matter how much money we acquired. It doesn’t matter where you came from. It doesn’t matter how kind or mean we were to people.
One of the roots for lack of confidence is that we think we’re somehow inferior. We think we’re not good enough, smart enough, rich enough, or beautiful enough. It doesn’t eff’ing matter. What we look like inside is all the same. You, me, The Donald.. we’re all the same. When you realize that we are all the same, you start to feel equal. When you know that you’re equal, any shred of insecurity or lack of confidence melts away.
Being Comfortable in your Own Skin
You want to get comfortable in your own skin? Start taking Zumba classes. And yes, Zumba is well attended by both men and women. One of the things I love about Zumba, besides the Reggaeton, of course, is that you’re literally given permission to let loose, and to be comfortable in your own skin. And you’re doing it among a huge group of people.
When you become ok with feeling like a fool in front of people, you’re likely comfortable in your own skin. I teach a weekly Zumba class at my client site. Incidentally, teaching Zumba is also an exercise in body language. Most of the instruction is done using non-verbal cues.
But here’s how it usually goes down: When you take your first Zumba class, you’re going to feel like a fool. Most everyone does. The first objection to trying out Zumba is always “oh, I’m terribly uncoordinated. People are so hung up about how they look, and how they move in public. Guess what? No one cares! Everyone’s so caught up in themselves, and how they are moving and following the instructor. No one is paying attention to you! So you stumble along, tripping over your feet in the first and second classes. By the third or fourth class, something magical starts to happen. You begin to know the music and the moves. Your hips start swiveling; your booty starts shaking. You’re letting it all go. Congratulations. That is the point where you are comfortable in your own skin. That is the point where you truly dance like no one’s watching. That, my friend, takes confidence.
As Amy Cuddy so eloquently put it, body language shapes who you are. The degree to which we can convey confidence will determine where we go, and to a certain extent how far we go in our lives and in our careers. Of course, confidence is not going to make up for a shortfall in value that you can bring to the table. There is no substitute for your actual expertise. If you suck at what you do, you’re still not going to be taken seriously. But you’re going to be brilliant at something. We all are brilliant at something. Help people see how you shine by using the right body language to communicate that your clients are in good hands. Your words just bridge the little gap.