Years ago I was on a long flight and they were playing a movie. But you had to buy headphones from the airline to listen to the movie. Naturally, I was too cheap to pay for those weird headphones that could only be plugged into an airplane chair’s armrest so I just watched the movie without the sound. And I didn’t miss a thing from Daredevil! I totally understood that he was blind but had super hearing powers.
Albert Mehrabian, a Professor at UCLA, found that the meaning of a message is mostly conveyed through non-verbal cues: 7% for the actual words said, 38% for voice tone, and 55% for body language. That’s right. The way you say something delivers more impact than what you actually say! That’s why Daredevil made perfect sense even though I didn’t hear a single word in the movie.
The same goes for body language in the workplace. Even if you say the right words, you might be conveying them wrong with poor body language.
Have you seen corporate CEOs? They tend to be well groomed, well mannered, and confident. That’s no accident. They’ve worked on their body language over the years to present themselves and their companies with confidence. If you want to work your way up the ladder, you should start improving your body language now.
Projecting confidence is very important in the workplace. Leaders tend to take up more space than other people. It’s one of the reasons it’s expected that the CEO gets the large corner office. And if you sit at a meeting, the highest ranked employee is probably taking up the most space on the conference table.
Becoming more confident is a bit of a catch-22. When you are more confident, you take up more space, but to take up more space, you have to be confident. Well how do you get around that? Here’s an exercise: stretch your arms straight up above your head and then slowly move them out so you make a T shape with your body and arms. Anytime you need to feel more confident, do that exercise.
As you take up more space, your confidence will improve slightly, and as your confidence improves slightly, you’ll take up more space. Keep practicing this overtime and before meetings and presentations.
But if you take up a bunch of space and look shift like a statue you’re going to come off as an inconsiderate jerk. There’s a fine line between confident and jerk, so let’s stay on the confident side.
One of the best ways to look confident but not selfish is to be a little off balance, like the women in the picture above. Shift your weight a little bit to one side so your weight is 60% to 40% on one side of your body. This is especially important when you are sitting down. Shift your weight a little to one side and spread one of your arms out a little further than normal.
When you’re sitting down, crossing your legs can help keep you just off-balance enough to look relaxed but not so much that you look unprofessional.
When you’re walking around the office you should also be confident. When you walk, keep your hands to your sides and touch your thumb to your index finger on both hands with your other fingers pointing at the floor. That will help you keep your back straight and your head up. Other than that, walk at whatever pace you normally do and be friendly.
If you keep your arms crossed, you’ll look like you don’t want to talk to anyone. That could come across as being selfish or angry depending on your facial expressions. If you keep your arms behind your back, you will look less confident and like your mind is wandering.
Keep your arms to your sides and the rest will take care of itself.
A final technique for building confidence is a visualization exercise. Many great athletes and musicians use visualization to reach peak performance and you can use it too!
Imagine yourself as a perfect version of you, whatever that means to you. What clothes are you wearing? How are you standing? Where are you? How are other people reacting to you? Now take that version of yourself and lift yourself up into the sky. Go up above the buildings in your city and into the clouds. Now take that version of yourself and multiply it in the sky. Then let that version of yourself float down back into the places of your life: your office, your home, your gym, and anywhere else you go. Image your perfect self, in every place in your life.
Do that exercise in your mind whenever you need a little boost of confidence.
Tomorrow at work, give these three techniques a try. Stretch your arms out when you need to keep more confident and take up a little more space than normal. Sit off balance and cross your legs. When you walk, touch your thumb and index finger together to walk confidently. This is the first step in looking like a confident business leader.
Next, we’ll look at leadership and inspiring others.
This article is part 1 in a series about building interpersonal skills for your career. Click on the links below to see the rest of the series:
Part 1: Body language – projecting confidence