How to use body language to become more confident

New research shows how we can use body language to both grow and show our self confidence, says Annika Rose

Woman using confident body language

Your presence is powerful, and projecting your most confident self could change how things unfold for you from this point on. Your body language conveys who you are and shapes how you’re seen, as well as holding the key to successfully communicating what you want.

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The eye contact you share can build trust and convey confidence. The gestures and movements you make can be used to express your state of mind, and the congruence between your voice and posture can impact the way you feel or how well your needs are met.

By listening more carefully to the language of your body, it’s possible to harness your personal power and presence – aligning your body and mind to make the most of any moment. Using your body language to become your boldest self starts with becoming more physically aware.

How does your body feel, move and take up space? Noticing how you hold yourself in different situations will shine a light on whether your body language is helping or hindering you.

Body language not only helps you to form judgements of others and vice-versa, it can also influence your thoughts and feelings about yourself. A confident step, a steady voice or a slumped posture can make a great deal of difference to your inner and outer world.

Notice the way you communicate verbally and non-verbally, paying particular attention to when you are exuding authentic confidence and where you may be holding yourself back.

In moments where you feel powerless, you’ll find that you tend to make yourself appear smaller. Your gestures, movement and even the words you share can consume less space than when you are being confident. Other submissive positions include folding your arms and legs, lack of eye contact and regularly touching your neck.

The good news is that making subtle changes to align your physical and mental energy can generate greater personal power. By tweaking your body language, facial expressions and voice, you can create an authentic presence.

Making subtle changes to align your physical and mental energy can generate greater personal power

According to social psychologist and bestselling author Amy Cuddy, “presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves.”

Presence arises when the words you speak, the expressions and gestures you make, the way you sit, stand and move are in synchrony. It describes the moment to moment mastery of a balanced body and mind that begins by tapping into your most powerful self.

As a social scientist, Amy’s interest in prejudice and power dynamics led her to explore body language and the impact this has upon thoughts, feelings and physiology. Her scientific research focused on adopting postures known as ‘power poses’ and exploring how they could shape the way we think and feel about ourselves and how powerful we are perceived to be.

After just a few minutes of holding certain expansive postures (such as standing tall with your feet apart, chest open and your hands on your hips) she discovered participants felt more confident and acted bolder than before.

Her team also observed that holding power poses generated measurable change in hormones: testosterone (associated with assertiveness) increased and cortisol (associated with stress) decreased. They concluded that the body could influence the brain to increase a person’s confidence.

While numerous studies support Cuddy’s findings that expansive postures deliver a psychological benefit by causing people to feel more powerful, evidence for the impact upon hormones remains inconclusive. So, while we can be confident that certain power poses generate a greater sense of power and presence, more research is required to reveal exactly how this works.

Despite this, Cuddy still takes a firm stance on the topic, believing we can all benefit from using our bodies to manifest new levels of confidence, and she maintains that power poses are a useful practice for those seeking to become bolder.

Woman speaking confidently to a colleague at work
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How to have more confident body language

While the findings concerning power-posing are commonly oversimplified to ‘fake it ‘til you make it,’ Amy urges us to adopt a more meaningful mantra – saying, “Don’t fake it ‘til you make it. Fake it until you become it.”

Another way to optimise your personal power is through consciously managing and balancing the chemicals in your brain and body to your advantage. In their new book Physical Intelligence, authors Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton explain that physical intelligence techniques “can increase your strength, flexibility, resilience and endurance, enabling you to build your confidence, make better decisions, rise to more ambitious challenges and live more constructive, fulfilling and tolerant lives.”

When life’s challenges come your way, are you thrown about or can you calmly find your feet? Hidden within trying times lies an opportunity to fine-tune your physical intelligence.

According to Claire and Patricia, spending too much time lost in thought can disconnect you from your centre point. Your physical balance is important in determining how mentally and emotionally balanced you feel and being able to regain this steadiness requires a connection to your inner balance.

“The process of centring results in a physical, mental and emotional state in which you know who you are, where you are, and have everything around you in perspective”, they share. Claire and Patricia reveal the hallmark of being centred is “seeing and experiencing your changing environment in high definition accompanied by feelings of great confidence and inner strength”. From this place, it’s far easier to think, deal with your feelings and keep your focus sharp.

Once you’re more balanced, another way to conjure up confidence and communicate a sense of control is via your voice. Research shows that when people speak in a lower pitch, strangers judge them as more powerful.

However, stress can affect the quality of your voice and nervousness can create a noticeable change in the tone, making it higher. By harnessing your voice to become bigger and bolder through speaking slower, louder and with more passion and control, you’ll feel a sense of strength and security in the words you convey and the way you communicate them.

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How to handle negotiations with confidence

“There has never been a better time for professional women to find their voice and claim their worth,” says Rhonda Moret, founder of Elevate For Her. Through seeing women not asking for what they want and missing out on the opportunity to reach their full potential, Rhonda knew she wanted to work with women, using body language to help give women the courage to claim their position in the workplace.

Having the confidence to ask for what you want is an attribute worth working on, especially for the career-driven woman, and Rhonda believes that both self-esteem and a sense of inner confidence can be easily developed.

Whether you’re stepping out for a business brunch or into the boardroom, your personal presence and physical intelligence can shape these experiences for the better and help you to get more of what you want, on your terms. This even holds true in more high stakes situations, such as sitting through an interview or seeking a higher salary.

“There are lots of mistakes people can make when negotiating,” Rhonda says, “such as simply not asking if you truly feel that your value is above that which is being offered.”

While many people simply take what’s on the table, mastering your body language and confidently using your voice to communicate your value in these moments could lead to big wins at work, such as the opportunity to step up or secure the (higher) compensation you deserve. Aletheia Hunn, head yoga teacher and director of Founded Wellness foundedwellness.com relies on her body-mind connection to balance both personal and professional wellbeing.

“From using purposeful movement to enhance performance or prevent injury, to understanding how my body and mind can connect to support my energy and efforts in business, my movement is more intelligent and I’m now far more aware of what I am doing and why,” she reflects.

As a corporate wellbeing provider, Aletheia also shares this intelligence with her clients through yoga, breathwork and mindfulness sessions, noticing “the impact is visible within minutes of them arriving in our session”.

Bringing together a toolkit of physical techniques that empower people to live and work well, Alethia is passionate about living these values herself, helping her clients to conquer the mental and physical challenges that arise and to thrive in any context.

Be it bold, brave or quietly confident, you can choose the version of yourself that you convey. By projecting the most powerful personal attributes you possess, using your body language to your advantage and leveraging your physical intelligence with simple strategies; you will naturally exude a positive, powerful presence.

Once this becomes your way of being, you’ll feel empowered to confidently rise to any situation – led by the boldest, bravest and most courageous you there is.

Calm woman breathing deeply
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5 ways to have body language confidence

1

Claim your space

When feeling powerless, you inadvertently make yourself smaller. Expansive postures can change how others perceive you.

Use open body language such as putting your feet flat on the floor, placing your hands on your hips and keeping your shoulders broad (just like Wonder Woman!) to make your presence more powerful, and you’ll share with yourself and the world that you’re secure, confident and ready to take action.

2

Breathe evenly

Stress changes the way you breathe and can result in taking shorter, quicker breaths. To optimise your breathing, relax your shoulders and regulate your breath to a smoother pace – inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.

Breathe deeply from the diaphragm (belly breathing), avoiding the urge to tense your abdominal muscles. Your belly will fill with air as you inhale, naturally becoming more rounded. Repeat this training for a few minutes a day and you’ll soon notice the positive benefits to both mind and body.

3

Speak up

When you’re relaxed and grounded and your body is in balance, the pitch of your voice deepens. This emanates a quality of confidence and authenticity. To project your most confident self, ensure you are taking in enough air through deep diaphragmatic (belly) breathing, and speak from this place of inner depth, using your exhale to project your voice in the desired direction.

4

Stand your ground

In challenging moments, avoid the urge to curl up, stay small or slouch down with your shoulders hunched or head lowered. If sitting, instead of shrinking your stance, adjust your posture to keep your spine straight, uncross your legs and plant both feet firmly on the floor.

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If standing, find a private space and place your feet hip width apart, lengthen your spine and breathe slowly and deeply as you roll your shoulders back. Stretch your arms wide to tap into your most confident, strong self. This positive and open posture will help you to stand your ground, gain a clearer perspective and problem solve your present challenge more effectively.

This article was originally published in In The Moment Magazine issue 27. Check out our latest subscription offers or order a back issue.