By Amy Kinnaird
You may not like it, but we’re always being judged. Consciously or unconsciously everyone judges. It may be how you look or what you say or how you say it. We communicate with our words and our body and our voice. And since you communicate all day, every day, you’re making an impression on the people around you all of the time. Make it a positive impression.
Are you someone that others want to listen to, who gets respect when you walk in the room and open your mouth? Do people listen to you and follow you as a leader? Some people seem to have been born with the charisma and skills to influence others easily. Others need a little boost. Luckily, being a confident communicator is a learned skill.
When you communicate confidently you put your audience at ease and build trust with them. Or to say it another way, if you come across as shy or uneasy you make the listener uncomfortable. They are much less willing to go along with your ideas. While many of our conversations happen over email or text, there are plenty of times when we are in front of our customers, suppliers, contractors or team members and need to come across in a strong, positive way. It might be one-on-one or in a meeting sitting around a table.
What are some factors that affect confident communications?
1.Body language. Remember that the way you walk, sit, stand and move is being interpreted by those watching you.
- People who lack confidence look down, avoid eye contact and often use small, guarded gestures. Confident people have great posture, walk with authority by holding their head up, chin up, eyes up and use big gestures. Good posture also allows you to breathe deeply from your diaphragm which positively affects your voice and helps to get rid of nerves.
- Keep your hands out of your pockets and don’t fidget. Jingling the coins in your pocket, swinging your legs or tapping your feet all show anxiety, not confidence.
- Have a great, firm handshake. I’ve gotten awful handshakes from both men and women. This is a major confidence indicator. PLEASE – no “limp fish” handshake. A firm handshake with a woman is as important as with a man. And don’t forget to stand up and shake the hands of people coming in to a meeting if you are already seated.
- If you are standing, plant your feet firmly on the ground at a natural width apart. Don’t rock back and forth which shows nervousness. Maintain good posture whether you are standing or sitting.
- Great eye contact is very important in a one-on-one conversation. A less confident communicator has trouble maintaining good eye contact.
How you dress is also an important first impression indicator. Just because you aren’t conscious or critical of someone else’s hair or wrinkled shirt, someone is noticing yours. Confident people dress well, which means clothes that fit nicely are in style and well kept. This means down to your shoes. My Dad taught me you could tell a lot about someone by looking at their shoes.
2.Voice. The tone of your voice and characteristics of your speech play a big part in confident communications.
- It starts with your breathing. Breathe from your diaphragm to develop a strong, rich tone of voice. A bonus is that this kind of breathing helps to calm your nerves in stressful situations.
- Practice what you want to say and watch for “fillers” like “Uh, um, like, you know, so” and others. You might record yourself talking on the phone and see where and when you use fillers.
- Don’t rush your words. Nervous people speak too fast which makes them appear less confident. Obviously avoid mumbling and enunciate your words.
- Don’t end statements with an upward inflection. Only questions end in an upward inflection. This is VERY common today. It gives the listener the impression that you aren’t sure about your statement; that you’re seeking validation about your comments.
3.Persuasive conversations. It’s not enough to have good body language and a confident voice. You need those skills AND a persuasive structure for your content. When you talk, your listeners or the participants in your meeting are thinking, “What’s in this for me?” You know how easily distracted we are and ready to pull out our phone and tune you out. It takes a little work to get people to do what you want them to do. This applies whether it’s asking for the sale, negotiating better terms or getting volunteers for your son’s sports team. Here are two key things to remember as you structure your conversation.
- You need to have a plan and that starts with the end in mind. What is it you want the listener(s) to do at the end of your conversation? There must be a call to action. Once you know where you are going, that will guide the rest of what you say.
- The first words out of your mouth need to have impact. You need to grab their attention and provide big value. What you should NOT do is start with, “Hello, today I’m here to talk to you about…” Start by telling us an interesting and relevant fact, story or ask a question. Make it a WOW. Please don’t say, “Can you hear me?” or “I’m nervous” or “I’m not a very good speaker” or anything negative. That’s a horrible way to start, it’s not confident at all and comes across poorly.
Confidence is tied to influence. When you look and sound more confident you can become a more influential leader. Study videos of CEO’s and watch how they walk and stand and pay attention to their voices. Analyze how they construct their messages. Their confidence stands out and so can yours.
Amy Kinnaird is one of Louisiana’s most respected C-Level business strategists, specializing in helping leaders and staff become more productive resulting in a more lucrative workplace.