Have you noticed that there are just some people who, when they talk, the whole room pays attention? Having a side bar simply doesn’t feel like an option. Even though you didn’t all go to that dinner party to hear this one person speak, they have a way of asserting themselves that makes you feel like you did—interrupting, or whispering to your neighbor, would just feel wrong. Those people have a little something I like to call presence. Presence and confidence tend to be a part of the same bundle. But, for the record, very few people who appear confident actually feel that confident on the inside. They have just learned some techniques that help them look like they have a handle on everything—that make others feel comfortable around them. It’s a great skill to have in everything from your social to your business life. Here are habits that make you appear insecure, and how to fix them.
Turning statements into questions
If you’re saying a statement then say it. Put a period at the end of it. When phrasing statements more as questions like, “Maybe we could increase our output in this department?” you make others around you feel that not even you have total faith in your idea.
Very few people out there are capable at maintaining eye contact for all (or most) of a conversation. If you can pull it off, you’ll always come off as more confident. Yes, it feels awkward but the person you’re speaking with doesn’t see that: they just see that you’re tuned in, and you are picking up on every little detail.
When you rush, it can come off as if you’re trying not to give the listener any time to find potholes in your story. Taking a breath and slowing down is your way of showing, “What I have to say is so important that it is worthy of plenty of time.”
Don’t play with your hair, adjust your top, or scratch your neck when you speak. These habits indicate lying or insecurity. You should, however, make use of your hands. Gesturing in order to emphasize a point shows that you back up your ideas so completely, that even your body backs them up.
Answering too quickly
Never feel compelled to reply immediately to a question or statement that requires an answer. Taking a moment, leaning back, looking away for a moment, and thinking about it indicates, “I believe your question is important and want to give it the best possible answer.”
Tempering your emotions
If you think something is hilarious, show that by laughing. If you think something is downright wrong, show it by shaking your head, and using a more serious tone. People who are insecure often try to temper their emotional reactions to make those around them more comfortable or, rather, less likely to attack them. But showing the way you really feel, unapologetically, shows that you’re not worried if someone disagrees with you.
Saying, “Sorry” often
Getting rid of this habit takes practice but challenge yourself for a full day to never say, “Sorry” (unless you actually harmed someone). But if someone just corrects you because you misstated a fact, or did a small task marginally wrong, you don’t need to say, “Sorry.” You can just say you’ll fix it, or that they’re correct. But you don’t need to apologize.
Starting with, “Well”
Starting your sentences with “Well” already takes some of the oomph out of them. “Well” subtly indicates so many other things like, “I’m sorry” or “If you don’t mind” or “I’m not sure about what I’m about to say.”
Having one foot out the door
You may not have a foot out a literal door in conversation, but you may always have one angled away from the person, as if you’re trying to walk away as soon as possible. This never indicates confidence. Plant your feet facing the person with whom you’re speaking. It indicates that you are fully present.
Don’t add a “Yup” and “Mmm” and “Exactly” after every sentence another person says. It can actually give off the impression that you’re only pretending to listen. Don’t be afraid to remain completely silent while someone else speaks; just maintain eye contact and don’t fidget, and they’ll know you’re listening.
Filling the void
It’s actually okay to remain silent even when the other person is silent. Though silence can feel awkward, if you always feel the need to fill it with anything at all, you can come off as insecure. Confident people are okay with silence.
Keeping your voice at a low volume
Do you project when you speak? I mean really make your voice heard? Keeping your voice low is like welcoming people to interrupt you. It’s a subtle way of saying, “I’m only sort of speaking but feel free to stop me at any time.” Project when it’s your turn to talk.
Letting someone steamroll you
There are those people who just monopolize conversations. If you don’t stop them, they’ll talk nonstop for an hour. They won’t stop on their own, so you have to stop them. You can do this by putting your hand on their forearm, and saying the words, “I’m going to just stop you for a moment” before saying what you need to say. The physical touch and that starter sentence A) remind them of your presence and B) subtly instruct them to be quiet.
Accepting a compliment doesn’t make you cocky. You weren’t the one to say the nice thing about yourself (which, by the way would also be okay): you simply aren’t negating the nice thing someone else said about you.
Asking for input
You don’t need to ask people what they think after you’ve spoken unless you’re working in a group on something. But if you’re just stating your opinion in conversation, don’t ask what everyone thinks after. If they disagree, they’ll state it on their own.