Unconfident Vs. Confident Body Language
By: Julia Thomas
Updated May 11, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Merlena James Leger, LPC
Confident body language can change the way people perceive you, and help you succeed in life. What is confident body language, and how does it compare to body language that doesn't show confidence? Becoming fluent in this kind of language can help you read others better and have more control over the image of yourself that you present.
What Is Body Language?
Body language is another means of communication. You can communicate nonverbally with others through:
- Body movements
- Hand gestures
- Tone of voice
- Volume of voice
- Facial expressions
You may consciously choose to use a particular type of body language, or you may do it without even being aware of it.
The Value of Showing Confidence
From the earliest prehistoric times right up to today, showing confidence has always had many benefits. Early humans gained power and secured their survival through confidence with others in their clan. Today, those who show confidence are more apt to do well in job interviews and secure the positions they want in their company.
When you show confidence, you inspire others to trust you. Your confident body language makes you a leaderthat people are likely to follow and admire.
Studies on the facial feedback hypothesis have shown that, when we smile, we tend to feel happier. The same may be true of confident body language. That is, when we move our bodies and speak in ways that express our confidence, we may indeed feel more confident as well.
Is It Ever Okay to Show a Lack Of Confidence?
There may be times when it's okay to show a lack of confidence, but it's important to be sure that you're in one of those situations before you express unconfident body language. For example, if you need to learn something from someone else, showing too much confidence may keep the person talking to you from explaining as thoroughly as you would like.
Another time to avoid showing too much confidence is when you want to show empathy to someone else. You can't know with certainty what they're going through. Even if you could, the point of empathy is to put yourself in someone else's shoes. You can't do that if you're completely focused on what great shoes you're wearing!
How to Utilize Confident Body Language
The quickest way to improve your confident body language is to learn a few tricks, and put them into practice simply. Here are some examples of how you can express confidence through your body, your voice, and your attitude.
Remember Past Successes
You may have heard the suggestion, "Don't dwell on the past." However, there are times when dwelling on positive memories can impact your life in the present moment. When you know you need to show confidence, spend a few moments thinking of past successes. Remember the situations where your displays of personal power had positive outcomes.
If you can only change one thing about your body language, work on your smile. When you smile at someone, they tend to remember you more clearly. They feel more open to what you have to say. You appear more trustworthy as well, and people find you more approachable. What's more, when you smile at someone, they nearly always smile back, so you create a positive exchange on both sides.
Give a Good Handshake
A firm but not overpowering handshake shows strength and confidence. It shows that you respect both yourself and the person whose hand you shake. Though too tight of a handshake can make people feel intimidated or bullied, shaking hands comfortably and confidently helps them feel less threatened, and more willing to engage with you.
Support Your Body Through Good Posture
When your body is well supported, you don't just look more powerful. You are stronger. This physical strength translates into a sharp and confident mindset that will carry you through difficult negotiations or stressful confrontations. So, stand up straight with your hips and shoulders aligned and your head up.
Take Up Space
People who aren't confident tend to make themselves appear smaller by the way they hold their bodies. If you want to exude confidence, allow yourself to take up as much space as you need to feel uncrowded and unafraid.
Widen Your Stance
Stand with your feet apart, your knees relaxed, and your weight centered in the lower part of your body.
Speak In a Lower Pitch
Speaking in a lower pitch makes you seem more reliable and stronger. By lowering the pitch of your voice, you not only make it easier for others to hear your words, but you also increase your authority.
Nodding and Mirroring
Stay engaged with the person you're talking to when you want to show you're confident in conversation. Nod when they say something you agree with as well as when you understand what they're saying. Mirror their expressions, too, to show that you're staying with their story and interested in what they have to say.
Position Yourself to Boost Testosterone
Certain power positions can increase your testosterone, according to research from Harvard and Columbia Business Schools. By upping your testosterone level, you feel more powerful and self-confident. These positions also decrease your cortisol, helping you avoid nervousness.
You only have to be in a power pose for 1 to 2 minutes to change the course of the entire interaction. One power pose is leaning back in your chair and putting your feet on the desk. Another is to stand with your arms and legs stretched wide apart.
Keep the Right Level of Eye Contact
Maintaining the right level of eye contact isn't easy, but it's well worth the effort. Stare into someone's eyes too long, and they feel bullied, intimidated, and discounted. Failing to make eye contact makes you seem untrustworthy or timid.
The right amount of eye contact is 50% to 60% of conversation time by the standards of U.S., European, and Australian businesspeople. Try this trick: look into the other person's eyes just long enough to see what color their eyes are.
Use Hand Gestures
Hand gestures can help you get across the information you want to share. They can also impart an attitude of confidence and personal power. Beyond that, they can improve your cognitive abilities and verbal expressions.
Make a Steeple
It may be hard to understand why, but for some reason, people respond well when you steeple your hands. Simply hold your fingers together with your palms separated. You show your sincerity and commitment with this easy-to-do gesture.
Open Your Arms and Show Your Palms
One thing you don't usually want when you're trying to show confidence is to appear as someone who's hiding something. You can avoid giving this impression by opening your arms wide and showing the palms of your hands.
Examples of Unconfident Body Language
Showing confident body language is great. Yet, if you mix it with unconfident body language, you may confuse your audience. So, even as you're adding confident gestures and stances, you also need to avoid unconfident ones.
Avoid slouching at all costs. Whether you're standing or sitting, your upright posture shows you're alert, engaged, and ready to take care of business.
Fidgeting makes you appear nervous. Avoid shaking your foot, biting your nails, twirling your hair, and touching your face or neck.
Sometimes, people mistakenly assume that they'll appear more confident if they remain aloof. The truth is that you'll have a hard time winning someone over if you fail to engage with them through open gestures, nodding, mirroring or other engaged body language techniques.
Don't Look Down
If you're keeping eye contact 60% of the time or less, where are you supposed to look the rest of the time? Whatever you do, don't look down. That makes you look unconfident and even embarrassed. Instead, try looking to the side.
Avoid the Limp, Dead-Fish Handshake
Practice your handshake until you can grip firmly but not too powerfully. A loose, limp handshake makes you appear weak and uninterested.
Be Careful How You Cross Your Legs
If you can, keep your feet planted on the floor to display solid, reliable confidence. You can cross your legs at the knee as long as you don't also cross your arms. However, crossing your legs at the ankles causes you to look like you're holding something back. Crossing your legs away from the other person may make them think you don't like them or feel uncomfortable talking to them.
Avoid Using Closed Gestures
Don't cross your arms across your chest. This is one of the most well-known examples of negative body language. So, you'll not only show your defensiveness and disengagement directly, but those who know anything about body language will immediately recognize that you aren't fluent in it.
Moving Beyond Appearances
Now that you know what confident body language looks like, you can replicate it to display confidence. You can also recognize when others are showing or not showing confidence. Yet, this is just a stopgap measure if you have low self-confidence. Practicing confident body language may improve your self-confidence. Another way is to improve your self-confidence more directly.
What Does It Take to Improve Your Self-Confidence?
For some people, all it takes to improve their self-confidence is to spend some time thinking of their successes and positive attributes. Some can develop their self-assurance by honing their skills until they gain more respect for themselves. Others who have been taught that they are worthless or inferior usually have trouble making this change on their own.
Through therapy, you can increase your self-esteem by examining the negative thoughts that hold you back, and replacing those thoughts with more positive but also true ideas. If you've tried to improve your self-confidence but haven't been able to manage it on your own, you may benefit from talking to a therapist.
Unpacking Body Language With BetterHelp
Studies show that online therapy is a useful method of helping those experiencing confidence issues, along with a number of other mental health concerns. A study published in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy noted that internet-based treatment plans are effective in addressing a number of problems often related to communication.For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most commonly used tools for managing social anxiety, which can involve a lack of confidence in communicating properly. Treatment focuses on changing thought patterns, so that certain emotions associated with social situations (including self-doubt or body image issues)can be reduced or eliminated.
As discussed above, online therapy can help you present the best version of yourself. With BetterHelp, you can work on your body language from the comfort of your own home, without having to commute back and forth between a therapist’s office. You’ll have the opportunity to communicate with your counselor outside of sessions, as well, so that you can take note of any body language issues as they arise. Therapists frequently check messages, and will get back to you with recommendations as soon as possible. Your therapist can help you converse with others more efficiently and confidently. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp’s licensed professionals, from people experiencing similar communication issues.
“Angie is amazing! Communications with her is like chatting with a friend but with all of the ninja skills to help you work through this stuff mentally and emotionally. I enjoy the dialogue and her ability to dig into me deeper which helps me to keep the circle focused on me.”
“Great listener and very kind. Kylee helped me through the most difficult time and I highly praise her way of communication. Her patience and solution based approach is exactly what I needed. I am in a much better place thanks to her support and effort from my side.”
As you work through your feelings of inadequacy or inferiority, you can change the way you see yourself and the world. You'll also find that as you gain inner strength, your body language will change even when you aren't aware of it. You'll not only feel more self-confident, but you'll show it even when you aren't aware of it!
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