Leadership and confidence usually go hand in hand. But sometimes you feel awkward or even silly. You may feel silly and awkward inside, but you can learn to overcome those feelings. You can develop the ability to both look and feel confident even though you feel silly.
Researchers tell us that the number one fear of most people is the fear of public speaking or some other public exposure. Now, in full disclosure, I will admit that I have never suffered from that fear. I was a “theater guy”. I loved being on stage. Many years ago my wife and I owned our own business where I was a paid professional public speaker. I have made a living standing and talking in front of a crowd. It doesn’t scare me – it energizes me. But I realize that I am the oddball in this regard. (Maybe some other regards as well . . .)
Here are a few tips and suggestions to help you get over the fear of looking silly and also help you gain and portray confidence to those around you.
- Stand Up Straight and Tall It is easier to exude confidence when you have a confident posture. No matter how awkward or embarrassing the situation you may be in, standing tall through it all will make people respect you for your ability to keep walking through the fire of adversity and hold your head high, no matter how scared you may feel inside. Remember what mom always said – – “Don’t slouch.”
- Apologize, But Only Once Being over-apologetic about a little mess-up just gets irritating after a while. Simply acknowledge your mistake, apologize genuinely, and continue on with whatever you were doing. This is a trait that I have seen with many “sales types”. They think that by apologizing they seem more open, likable, trustworthy or vulnerable. This is not the case. They just get annoying.
- Learn to Accept a Compliment Confident people are able to accept a public “Thank you” with grace and confidence. When someone compliments you for something you have done, what you are wearing, what you have said, or even for something beyond your individual influence, it just takes two simple words to respond confidently. “Thank you”. And it never hurts to add a simple smile. Not an – I am taking your photos so say ‘Cheese!’ kind of smile. Just a simple smile.
- Be Willing to Laugh at Yourself Everyone has that moment of embarrassment where they failed before a crowd or the PowerPoint didn’t work right. As mortifying as it can be, look up at the crowd, smile, laugh a little, and if you are quick witted, make fun of yourself in a humorous yet non-degrading way. People will not be laughing at you (OK, some of them will be), but laughing with you. Don’t shrink away in shame. You haven’t done something “wrong”, you just made a mistake. And people who can laugh off a little mistake are likable and confident people.
- Make Direct Eye Contact This is one of the hardest things for some people to do, but making eye contact demonstrates honesty, confidence, and an indication that you feel that you have right to be here and you are not intimidated. Direct eye contact also represents power. If you want to be taken seriously, look the person directly in the eye as you are talking one on one, and they will. If you are presenting to a group, sweep your eyes across the group and pause to make occasional eye contact with different folks throughout the presentation. This is really hard and impractical in massive crowds. But that kind of presentation is a whole different set of guidelines.
- Have a Firm Handshake Personal pet peeve here – A “wet washcloth”, limp or weak handshake makes you appear weak, feeble and timid. Now, don’t be a “bone crusher”. Because that makes you seem overbearing and annoying. Handshakes are not a contest. But they do send a message. Grip the other person’s hand firmly in yours, and give three firm shakes and release. That will take care of it. And look them in the eye as you shake their hand. By the way, this goes for you ladies as well.
- Begin By Introducing Yourself Always mention your name in the beginning. Doing this tells the other person that you are important, no matter how unimportant you may feel inside. Add your last name, and that exudes even more importance. When I introduce myself, I say, “Hi, I am Kevin, Kevin Bowser. It is a pleasure to meet you”. When you do this, people will automatically see you as someone worthy of respect, and worthy of remembrance.
- Smile I know I mentioned it earlier. But it is worthy of a stand-alone tip. There is nothing more confident than a smile. A smile shows openness, ease, confidence, and makes people feel comfortable around you instantly, no matter how uncomfortable you may feel inside. But, there are many different smiles. When in doubt, opt for the simple smile. Some may call it a “grin”. Avoid the big toothy smile all the time. It tends to have an opposite effect and makes you appear insincere.
- Speak Up and Project Don’t mumble. Work on the voice you have. Not everyone’s natural voice is a booming old time evangelist voice. But we can all improve our vocal ability by a little practice. Begin by making sure to say each word clearly. This will help people view you as prepared, intelligent, interesting and important.
- Tough It Out! No matter how silly, stupid, or put on the spot you may feel, whether at work, school, or at any given function in which you find yourself, don’t run away or retreat. Stick it out. To retreat makes you look as if you agree that you failed. If you remain in the crucible in the midst of an assault to your ego, you are confounding the audience and preventing him from having the last laugh. Just remember: Just when you think that people think that you have been defeated or surrendered, prove them wrong. Do it with grace and a little humbleness. But do it.
How are you feeling? Are you feeling silly? Or are you feeling confident? What tips or tricks do you use to help yourself feel more confident?