How to be the most confident person in the room – without being annoying

Because we cannot possibly all have the same energy or confidence. Which is why some people hate some comedians that others love. And why some people find certain politicians charismatic and exciting, and others regard that person as insufferable and narcissistic. (Important: part of confidence is about accepting that you cannot be loved – or even liked – by absolutely everyone.) 

For some of us, this quality could be about channelling quiet calm, reassurance and diplomacy. For others it could be bringing the wow factor, exuding charisma or even being slightly seductive. Or it could be about bringing one of any of these: curiosity, warmth, a questioning nature, generosity, intensity, focus, ease, dynamism, wit, kindness … There is no right answer. 

There is only the tone that feels right to you. Trying to make yourself more confident is not only incredibly difficult, it’s also nebulous, subjective and ill-defined. 

It can help to ask whether there is another quality – or combination of qualities – you could bring to this situation that are more specific and easily applied. So if you’re going to a party, instead of trying to be confident, you could decide to be helpful to the host, open-minded or companionable. 

If you have to speak in front of others, you could choose, for example, to be clear, concise and succinct. If you have to approach someone who intimidates you, you could be decisive, steadfast or (not for the faint of heart) optimistic. 

Ask if this is ‘internal’ or ‘external’ for you 

In drama and comedy, performers split their attention into two parts: “internals” and “externals”. Your “internals” are about how you’re feeling inside: your emotions, your intention, your attitude. Only you really know the truth about your internals. 

The “externals” are what others see: how you present to the world, how you stand or sit, how you enter a room, what you’re wearing. 

Too many people are vague in their examination of their own confidence. They expect to just feel it unquestioningly. But that’s unrealistic. You can’t wake up every day feeling great. It pays to think about what exactly is bothering you, and what you can do to fix it. The answer is often very specific. 

Figure out what is knocking your confidence. If it’s “external”, experiment by changing something aesthetic or visible, whether it’s your outfit, the amount of space you take up or the seat you usually sit in at work. (When we feel small, we shrink ourselves and our gestures.) If it’s an internal feeling, work on re-framing it. “Maybe I’m not nervous, I’m just excited.” Or: “Maybe that person was rude to me because they are mean or they’re just having a bad day, not because I deserved it.” Or: “If I’m feeling wobbly, I need to take a moment to myself to sit and breathe.” 

Don’t be afraid of the obvious 

When I interviewed Michelle Obama’s speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz about confidence in public speaking, she had some advice which made my jaw drop because it was so obvious – and yet so brilliant. 

She had a tip about using written notes or prompt cards. If you’re going to have anything written – or printed – on a piece of paper in front of you, then only use the top third of the paper. 

Use multiple sheets or cards with notes on the top third only rather than one lengthy text that runs down the page. That way, your focus is always “upwards and outwards”. 

Your face remains visible, your voice projects out into the room, your eye contact never dips down. And – extra bonus – no one sees you with a double chin. Genius. 

This also serves as a reminder that people care way more about how you say something and the level of authenticity of your connection than they care about the actual content of what you’re saying. (Although obviously make the content excellent too.) 

Get out of your head

Take a tip from voice coaching: everything about you will seem more grounded and secure if you are comfortable in your body. Sometimes this can be as easy as thinking, “Where are my feet?” Send your energy to the soles of your feet. Feel the contact of your feet on the floor. 

If you are having a wobble in a meeting or in a stressful situation, recover focus and composure by actively pushing your feet into the floor. Imagine your brain or your mind dropping like a stone into the centre of your body. Imagine that you are breathing through the soles of your feet. 

None of this is scientific, by the way. These are rituals I’ve learned from performers and they work for most people. Whether they’re a placebo or not, they help you regain a sense of perspective and to feel relaxed in yourself. If you’re having racing thoughts, a loud inner critic or all sorts of messages in your head that you’re not good enough or everything is going to go wrong … You need to get out of your head and start thinking about your feet. 

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