Most of us would like an extra dose of confidence at key moments in our working lives. Here, Serena Evans, actor and trainer, offers her suggestions for how we might enlist the help of our bodies in giving us more confidence when we need it.
Many years ago, there was a TV astrologist by the name of Evadne Price – or at least that was her stage name – who, every Sunday evening, would tell the nation, ‘think lucky and you’ll be lucky’. I know of no research to tell me whether Evadne was right or wrong. However, as an actor, I do know that you can convince an audience that your character is a confident person if you act as though you are a confident person – even if you are terrified on the inside, as most stage actors are most of the time!
Amy Cuddy, in her brilliant TED talk, tells us about ‘ power posing’. She suggests that, if before a presentation, you stand for two minutes with your arms outstretched sideways, your chest lifted (and you breathe!), you will enter the presentation space with an aura of confidence – so it seems that our bodies can help us a lot when it comes to ‘appearing’ to be confident.
For the actor, all body language is the external expression of the internal character they are playing; so, a confident character will always be upright, and have very strong, definite physical movements. A shy, retiring character might lower his eyes, make small movements, and hang his head sideways, for example. These physical characteristics are clues for the audience about the character they see before them even before any words are spoken.
The same is true for all of us. We use our bodies to express what’s going on inside all the time. Much of that time, however, we are not being conscious of the message we are sending. When you present, for example, there is no character to draw on, there is only YOU! You need to put your audience at ease even though you are the centre of attention. If you can ‘act as if’ you are confident, whatever you may be feeling, you will not only reassure your audience but will start to actually feel more confident at the same time.
We are constantly (unconsciously) speaking a physical language to one another. It is just that much of the time, we are not aware that the conversation is going on, let alone what is being said. Next time you meet someone for the first time, notice what they are telling you non-verbally. Is it supporting or contradicting what they are telling you verbally? Next time you enter a room, give a presentation, join a face-to-face meeting, think ahead about what you want to say non-verbally and act as though it were true of your character. Confidence trick? Maybe. But then all the world’s a stage….