At a recent event an audience member asked “What role does body language play in exhibiting confidence? Are there some postures, movements that indicate confidence?”
Just to let you know that no matter how much you know about a topic, someone will ask a question that causes you pause. In this instance my initial reaction was “Oh crap, never thought of that.”
Fortunately my confidence enabled me to quickly set that emotion aside and admit my lack of familiarity with the topic. My exact response was “I may not be the right person to answer that for you.”
During that disclaimer, I came up with some ideas which I shared. First, I acknowledged the fact that body language does influence others’ perception of us and the confidence we possess.
Second, that each of us has a natural style to our body language, our gestures, the way we hold ourselves and that when we’re confident is appears regardless of our natural style.
Finally, I suggested to her that if she was focused on evaluating her body language she would give the impression of uncertainty, she’d be fidgety and she wouldn’t be listening to the other person which would give them the impression that she wasn’t interested, was distracted or aloof. None of these impressions would instill confidence in the people with whom she’d be interacting.
My final comment was “Don’t strive to look confident, be confident. Then others will readily recognize that you are a confident person.”
Her smile at that told me that this message resonated with her.
Whenever I’m hit with an unexpected question, I gain insights (or am reminded of insights previously gained). That’s what happened in this situation. Here are some of those insights.
In these situations I’m reminded that no matter how much I learn about confidence, or how confident I become, I cannot avoid the inevitable anxiety associated with not being able to answer a question that surprises me. Emotional reactions are automatic which means I cannot prevent them.
The power of pause
Despite these emotions I recall that in previous instances I have often come up with an answer when I buy time. I buy time by admitting that I don’t have the answer or, if I’m teaching a class, asking the students to share their thoughts. Admitting that I don’t immediately have an answer and asking others their thoughts creates a pause which buys me time to think.
During that pause I often get ideas that will help me answer the question. In this particular case, as the ideas came to me I followed my disclaimer with “But I will share my impressions with you.”
Using this language enabled me to offer some thoughts on the question without giving them the gravitas of validating experiences. As I communicate the new thoughts (I am sharing thoughts without filtering them), I find that greater and greater clarity surfaces which then enables me to come up with a legitimate answer to the question.
One with the universe
Finally, as I shared my initial impressions I gained greater and greater clarity about the issue and was able to come up with the advice “don’t strive to look confident, be confident” and your confidence will be obvious.
This ability to come up with an answer that made sense to her, as evidenced by her smile, comes not from knowledge that I possess, but from the wisdom of a higher power. To me, my ability to come up with answers, even when I’m surprised by the questions, is evidence of a higher power…and that I am merely a conduit of the wisdom. of that higher power.
I’ve been fortunate over the years to come to this realization which is why, despite initial anxiety, I’m able to quickly set aside this emotion and help others in ways that I could not accomplish on my own.
My goal in sharing this experience with you is to enable you to deal more confidently with the surprises you inevitably face.
The keys are:
- Quickly acknowledge the fact that you may not have the answer or solution immediately in mind.
- While you’re in the process of making that admission, pay attention to the ideas that surface. Then share them with the other person…whether they’re fully developed or not.
- As you share the ideas that come to you, you’ll experience greater and greater clarity which you will also share with the other person.
- Finally, recognize and acknowledge the fact that you were assisted by a higher wisdom than your own. That’ll help you remain grounded and avoid becoming arrogant.
For our kids
First and foremost live the message. Kids will quickly pick up on your confidence as evidenced by your willingness to admit what you don’t know. As a result they’ll be more comfortable in admitting when they don’t know something.
Make them aware that often solutions surface as they’re admitting the fact they don’t yet have a solution, but not to be disappointed if one doesn’t surface immediately. The solution may well surface as they get some distance from the issue.
Finally, as they become more aware of their ability to answer questions and provide solutions that they are being a conduit of a greater wisdom. This will help them avoid becoming arrogant.
It’s never cease to amaze me how many lessons we can learn from a single encounter. In this instance a surprising question from someone in the audience.
If you’d like to develop the skills to teach confidence as part of your role as an educator, coach, consultant, trainer, leader or other professional, check out my professional development and certification programs at TeachingConfidence.com.