Everyone feels less than 100% confident some of the time and that can have a big negative impact on our conversations.
People who project conversational confidence appear decisive, enthusiastic and in control. This leads other people to trust and respect them which helps to build more confidence, and so the cycle continues. But if you are one of those who struggle to start this cycle of confidence at work, this can lead to feelings of low self-worth.
In workplace conversations, there are a number of tips you can use to engage your audience with more authority. Here are our top tips for having confident conversations.
1. Take up more space
People who are shy or withdrawn tend to take up less physical space. This can make them seem timid, and even childlike, and so people treat them accordingly. If you want to project confidence with your conversational style then consciously take up more space.
Keeping an upright posture when you’re standing or sitting, uncrossing your arms and even spreading your paperwork out more sends the message ‘I’ve a right to be here.’
2. SOFTEN up
Sticking with body language for a minute, I want to remind you about the SOFTEN technique. This was developed by Don Gabor who is a small talk expert.
SOFTEN’s an engagement tool to help with social situations and the principles hold true for business conversations too. If you use them you’ll find your audience listening to you more carefully and this will help develop your conversational confidence.
The mnemonic stands for:
S - Smile - A smile is a welcoming sight and lets people know that your feel good about yourself and are non-threatening to them. These are both positive if you want people to remember good things about you.
O - Open - Too often, people who lack confidence appear to put up barriers. At work, this might mean crossing their arms, sitting behind a desk or table or always having a notebook or laptop open in front of them. Get rid of these barriers and you’ll immediately appear more confident, engaged and engaging.
F - Forward - Leaning forward during a conversation, particularly when seated across from someone over a desk, says you are actively listening to that individual. It shows you are interested in them and what they have to say. They will likely mirror your actions in return, leading to a more engaged and confident conversation on both sides.
T - Touch - A firm handshake, initiated by you, states clearly that you are a confident person.
E - Eyes - Eye contact communicates that you confident. Look back at point 1 about Taking up more Space - lifting your head, standing straighter and looking someone in the eye gives you more actual presence as well as emotional presence.
N - Nod - Acknowledging the other person’s point with a slight nod shows that you are paying attention and lets them feel understood, encouraging them to continue.
3. Speak slower
Speaking too quickly indicates a lack of confidence and a lack of authority. Try slowing down your conversational pace – this will give your sentences a weightier rhythm and, as with taking up physical space, says to others that you have a right to present and to have your say.
4. Pause for effect
Using conversational pauses can help you speak more slowly and also adds weight to specific points you make. Try pausing for a count of 2 - 3 seconds when you have said something that you particularly want others to take on board. This pause says you are in control and confident that you have made a contribution that matters.
5. Lower your vocal range
Take a look at some of the most famous speeches throughout history, at current politicians, and even at television newscasters. You'll find that most of them have deeper tones of voice - this is no coincidence. People tend to view speakers with deeper speaking voices as having more authority and confidence.
6. Look your best
A simple yet powerful technique. If you look good then you will feel more confident. There’s no harm at all in choosing to get ‘suited and booted’ when you feel your confidence may be at a low ebb.
When you feel good about how you look, you’ll give off a vibe that says ‘’Confident.’
7. Be a Communicator
If you want to build your confidence, don’t wait for those conversations that matter most - big presentations, negotiations and so on.
Build your confidence by looking for opportunities to address a group as a speaker, or strike up conversations with strangers you meet and practice the skills we have discussed.
The best way to improve your conversational confidence is to practice your techniques until they become habitual!
About the Author
Heather Campbell - Managing Director
Heather set up CommsMasters over 14 years ago - the mission is to develop conversation and communication strategies that busy leaders and business professionals can implement easily.
With over 25 years of leadership experience – combined with ongoing research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience and systems thinking – Heather has researched what really makes for great communication – and what gets in the way. Based on this, CommsMasters has developed a toolkit of practical, pragmatic techniques – Precision Engineered Communication. They’re proven to work in one-to-one, one-to-few and one-to-many interactions, and bring reliable, sustainable results.