Body Language Expert on How to Project Confidence

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Actors put themselves on the line each and every audition. Projecting confidence during this brave act not only helps the performer feel positively during the experience, but it conveys to the casting executives that the actor is competent and likely to adjust well on a set. Being scrutinized by decision makers, a performer can certainly benefit from projecting confidence from the beginning of an audition to the very end.

Enter former FBI agent and body language expert Joe Navarro. In a WIRED YouTube video, he explains how to use body language to project confidence, breaking down specific giveaways that an individual is comfortable in his or her own skin. “People that are supremely confident, when they enter the room, they feel comfortable in that room. They don’t hesitate to look around, their gestures are smooth, but they’re very broad. And that has to do with confidence,” he states. Navarro believes all people can benefit from improving their non-verbal cues in order to come across as more self-assured.

Listed below are some specific tips he shares to get you projecting yourself in your best light. And, just like anything else in life, the more you practice these tips, the easier it will be to master them.

Traits of confident people

How do we recognize confidence in others? It can be hard to describe exactly what it is we are seeing that is so convincing. Navarro says the magic ingredients include: “Our posture, the way we present, how we look, where’s our chin? Where are the eyes looking and gazing? Our gestures are loose, but they’re smoother. As we walk about, we walk as though we are on a mission—I’m walking to shake your hand or I’m walking out to a podium or I’m walking to where I’m going to sit.”

Know the material

First of all, confident body language falls short if performers haven’t done their homework before the audition, shoot, or play. They must bring their actor knowledge and expertise into the room. “If you want to be confident, know your material, know the information, one that skill, work at it. Have that mastery of things and of self. And that’s how you will come across as confident, no matter what your station in life is,” Navarro says.

Confidence can be quiet

Confidence doesn’t require big energy, muscle flexing, a puffed-up chest, or loud talk.

“Confidence can be very quiet,” Navarro insists. For example, Jane Goodall, who studied and lived amongst the chimpanzees, is a highly confident person, although she exhibits a gentle, mild manner. Regardless of personal style, Navarro explains, “[Confident individuals] sort of have this command of themselves, and in doing so, that command transmits outward.”

Take your time

A nervous urgency often accompanies a person who is struggling with self-doubt. That energy can result in quick, jerky movements, increased preening, fast speaking with a higher pitch, and listening difficulty. Therefore, Navarro encourages people to slow down and lower their voice. “I’m going to take my time to walk out. I’m going to take my time to answer your question. I will answer it in the pace, manner, and tone that I choose,” he asserts. That can include pausing at strategic points of your sentences, which has the power to draw people in closer. For example, Winston Churchill used to read from that included spaces of various lengths pause notes indicating how long he was to during his speeches to make the strongest impact.

Eye contact

When feeling confident, people readily make eye contact with others. When self-doubt begins to creep in, people are less likely to make eye contact or look around at our surroundings.

Mirroring confidence

Navarro asserts that people are not born confident. “We can become confident with the assistance of our parents who encourage us. We can become confident through our achievements. We can become confident by going beyond our boundaries. But confidence is something we can grow, we can nurture,” he says.

It’s through socialization that we are able to learn the voice and gestures of confident people, whether it is the principal at school or a famous singer who exhibits such traits. He encourages each of us to select a person who exhibits a commanding presence and mirrors that individual’s gestures, their manner of speaking, and their vocabulary. “This is a shortcut,” Navarro explains. “That doesn’t mean it changes me completely. It just means this is what is required of me, and this is what I want to achieve at this moment in time.”

Leaning into a wall

In order to feel ready to walk on stage with full confidence, Navarro shares one of his warm-ups: “I find a good solid wall, and I will just lean into it like I’m holding this wall up, pressing against it just as if I were doing a push-up.” He keeps his hands wider than shoulder width apart. Navarro insists this practice releases muscular tension. “And because I’m doing it very wide, it makes me feel more powerful.” Once he’s up in front of the group, only then does he look at the audience. “And then I just take a second to get myself together” before beginning with his presentation.

Other behaviors to modify

Avoid pointing. Pointing is known by researchers to be one of the “most hated signs around the world.” On the other hand, gesturing toward the intended direction with an open palm is much more well received.

To say “no” like you mean it, Navarro advises people to say it with a lower tone while simultaneously gesturing with your hand with your fingers spread wider apart. “The more confident you became, the wider your fingers were spreading.”

Avoid uptalking, that is, ending sentences with a higher note. Uptalking is not desirable in the workplace.

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