C-Suite Agenda

Exude Confidence through Your Body Language

We’ve all heard the phrase “people buy from people,” but another lesser-known quote digs a little deeper into what has to happen for people to believe another’s sales pitch. The rapper Chuck D said, “In order for people to buy from you, they have to buy into you.”

If you are on the receiving end of the transaction, buying into someone requires experiencing feelings of trust, likeability and confidence in that person. Before you can rely on another person to deliver on some future promise or task, you first make an in-the-moment judgment call on the person’s character. At this point it’s not about assessing the person’s skills for the task, it’s about assessing the person.

On the other hand, if you’re on the selling end of the transaction and are trying to get someone to buy into you, it’s important to project the magic “three C’s” — competence, credibility and confidence. If you want others to think of you as confident, then your behavior and body language need to express that — particularly when talking about potential future performance.

The ability to project confident body language can help if you’re selling yourself in any number of situations — such as to a hiring manager, to a potential client, or to a prospective investor.

Being able say how you’ve performed a similar task in the past builds your competence and referencing how you know what’s involved builds your credibility. But your confidence will be assessed by your behavior.

Human beings’ primarily sense is sight — we tend to believe what we can see. The behavior you show through your gestures and expressions is crucial in enabling people to assess you as confident. To project confidence, you must not only say what you’re able to accomplish, but show that you’re able in through your body language.

What does confident body language look like? Here are a few key ways to project confidence in your nonverbal communication:

  1. Wear a genuine smile
    Yes, it’s easy to pull your face into a smile, but you need to give a real genuine smile — not a fake smile that may unnerve people. Fake smiles are worse than not smiling at all. Body language experts emphasize that subtle differences reveal a fake smile versus a real smile. First, in a real smile the small muscles around the eyes contract. But a much more obvious give-away that a smile is fake is the “fade speed” of the smile.

    Genuine smiles are accompanied by a rush of the “happy hormones” — endorphins, oxytocin or dopamine. When these chemicals are released into the bloodstream, they don’t appear and disappear instantly. They peak and then take a little time to work their way out of our bloodstream. When smiling naturally with these chemicals in the bloodstream, the smile fades in much the same way as the amount of the happy hormones fade. They peak and then fade. The higher the peak, the longer it takes for the smile to fade.

    Fake smiles don’t fade, they just end. Without happy hormones to support the smile, it becomes a mechanical smile. Just like an elastic band, when you release the pressure, the face will instantly snap back unnaturally to a neutral expression.

    To exude confidence, don’t flash a mechanical smile, but smile genuinely. To do that, you need to think in a way that releases those happy hormones and enable a naturally occurring and naturally fading smile. For example, think of the positive implications of the interaction — the “up sides” of doing well in the interview, such as getting approval for your investment, or how happy you’ll be if you land that job! Those happy thoughts will generate the happy hormones that will make your smile genuine, even in high stress situations.

  2. Emphasize your words with a downward chop motion
    One of the best all-purpose confidence gestures is to make a downward chop motion with one or, for extra effect, both hands. With fingers extended, place the hands at shoulder height, shoulder width apart. At a key point, they’re brought down in a chopping motion, stopping abruptly when the upper and lower arm are at a right angle.

    President Biden used this gesture in the opening line of his 2021 inaugural address, and Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, used it six times in a 30-second portion of a speech she gave on climate change.

    When you use a chop gesture, it will reassure people that you believe in what you’re saying and can deliver on your promises.

Remember, humans use visual clues when judging people and this is how other people judge you. If you want to project confidence, your body language needs to show this alongside the confident things you say.

Written by Martin Brooks.

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Martin Brooks
Martin Brooks is an experienced communication coach and trainer. In his consultancy practice, he applies his expertise in the reading of body language to help in better understanding others as well as communicating more effectively. His body language analysis has been aired on the BBC, LBC Radio and the Discovery Channel. His new product, “Body Language Decorder,” includes 50 illustrated cards that reveal what others are really thinking.

Martin Brooks is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.