I recently contributed to a “Dear Gracie” article on ProfNetConnect describing how you can project confidence starting a new job. That first moment you walk into the office, you want to make a powerful first impression. Read the article below and leave a comment.
Each week, Dear Gracie answers questions from ProfNet Connect readers with advice from our network of nearly 50,000 ProfNet experts. Has there been a question burning in your mind lately, something you’ve been wondering that none of your colleagues can answer? Please send it to email@example.com
I’m about to start a new job, and I want to put my best foot forward. I know I’ll be nervous and insecure about myself for at least the first few weeks. Do you have any tips on how I can seem more confident?
Dear Novel Nerves,
Eight ProfNet experts offer up eight tips on projecting confidence at the office:
1. Walk tall
“Do what your mom told you as a kid — stand up straight!” says Stephen Balzac, president of the management consulting firm 7 Steps Ahead, and psychology professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology. “This is the first and most important step in projecting confidence.”
If you improve your posture, you will also increase your confidence; and the more confident you feel, the more confident you will act, he says.
Walk with a long spine and open chest without crossing your arms, adds Sharon Jakubecy, speaker trainer, performance coach and certified Alexander Technique teacher. You’ll seem more open and approachable.
And just before you enter a room or a meeting, let the breath out of your mouth, she suggests. “This releases uncomfortable tension in your neck, shoulders and jaw, which can make you look aggressive and off-putting.”
Don’t stand slumped over, with your hands in your pockets, not making eye contact, stresses Scott Sobel, president of Media & Communications Strategies, who has a master’s degree in media psychology from Touro University Worldwide.
2. Shake hands like a politician
You’ve heard this one before, but it’s important: Don’t give the “half-hand shake,” says Billy Lowe, celebrity hairstylist. It feels weird, and tells people you’re not fully committed. A good handshake requires three things: full hand, firm grip, solid shake.
3. Look your best, feel your best
Showing up to work in ill-fitting clothing, hair unkempt and a “run out the door” image does nothing for your self-confidence, Lowe says. “If you look great, you feel great.” People will notice and compliment you, which in turn will boost your self-esteem even more.
Moreover, image conveys volumes about work ethic. “People that are up on their beauty and image routines are usually more polished, together, composed and self-assured,” Lowe continues.
“How you carry yourself and dress in the workplace often gives coworkers tips on your attitude and demeanor,” agrees Nancy A. Shenker, founder and CEO of the marketing company theONswitch and co-author of “Don’t Hook Up With the Dude in the Next Cube: 200+ Secrets for New Grads.”
Furthermore, if you roll your eyes at coworkers’ ideas, pay more attention to your smartphone than your colleagues, or consistently flaunt designer duds and pricey bling; you’re sending out the message: “It’s all about ME!” she says.
4. Speak easy
Practice speaking in an even tone, without unnecessary pauses or hesitations, says Balzac. “We perceive confident speech to be speech without gaps.”
And — believe it or not — it’s actually better to say “um” than to let silence reign, he says.
Don’t speak too fast either, Balzac adds. “Rapid speech makes people feel rushed. Confident speakers know they have the time to deliver their message.” Try recording yourself or practicing in front of someone else to see get feedback.
“Rushing makes you and your body more stressed,” agrees Jakubecy. “Your voice will be higher pitched and strained.”
To relax your voice, hum or sing before you go into work or a meeting, she suggests. “This warms up your voice so you sound like an expert. It gets your body moving too so you walk into work feeling more relaxed and connected to your body and voice.”
5. Find your happy place
To appear poised, recall a time when you were at your best, and create a buzzword related to that emotional state, says Gregg Steinberg, motivational speaker, professor of human performance at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee and author of “Full Throttle: How to Supercharge Your Performance at Work.”
The buzzword should represent the confidence you felt in that situation, like “bulldog” or “fighter,” for example. Say the word to yourself each time you start a routine, or right before you begin a task.
For instance, say your buzzword every time you have face-to-face meetings. Your confidence will get a boost when you are already in a positive mental place.
(My buzzword? Tiger-claw!)
6. Give credit where credit’s due
When Vicky Oliver – author of five books on career development, including “301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions” and “The Millionaire’s Handbook: How to Look and Act Like a Millionaire Even if You’re Not” — worked in the advertising industry, she met five people who all claimed to have written the “I Love New York” campaign. “It doesn’t take five people to write five words,” she says.
It takes a confident person to let someone else shine, and doing so will highlight your integrity and assuredness. So if you are the boss or colleague of someone who did something brilliant, bend over backwards to give the person credit, says Oliver.
7. Let others put in their two cents
“A monologue may be fine if you’re a comic, but confidence is demonstrated by your ability to let people in,” says Balzac.
Stay in control of conversations by asking questions, he says. “Ask other people about themselves, what they are doing, what matters to them.”
Be a good listener by trying to find the underlying message in someone’s words, and don’t interrupt, says Oliver. “Conversely, if someone interrupts you, smile at him or her and do your best to tolerate it. You will win more admiration that way.”
8. Always keep it classy
Admit it — we get annoyed with our coworkers sometimes. Whether someone is bragging too much, giving you unwanted advice or gossiping up a storm, always take the high road and people will think you’re trustworthy and dignified.
People who brag are doing it because they want to feel successful, says Jill Spiegel, author of “How to Talk to Anyone About Anything! The Secrets to Connecting.” Trying to “one up” them severs the connection, so instead, celebrate their success. For example, if a coworker says “I noticed on the sales report that I was the top performer again this week.” Respond with: “That’s exciting. I’m impressed!”
Similarly, if someone gives you advice you didn’t ask for or don’t agree with, don’t respond by explaining why their suggestion won’t work; just make them feel helpful through appreciation and diplomacy, she says. If a coworker says “I’m reading a book about decorating the office for more productivity. Your area needs a few plants. You should get some.” Say something in return like: “Thanks for your idea. I’ll give that some thought.”
And if one of your co-workers in the lunchroom makes a gossipy remark like “Julie’s desk is a mess. I happen to know her sister is a hoarder,” just remember that people gossip to feel important, says Spiegel. Even when others chuckle or seem interested in the gossip, everyone else ends up thinking “What will they about me next?”
Create an inclusive atmosphere by responding with something upbeat, and then redirect the conversation, like: “Julie has such a great laugh. Hey, your presentation today was powerful! Have you always enjoyed speaking for groups?”
Employers, clients and colleagues pick up on defensive behavior and lack of positive wording, says Sobel. Speak and act in an empathetic and welcoming way so everyone sees you as part of the team.
I just finished an Alexander Technique session with a client who is returning to lessons after about a year. He has been experiencing lower back pain. What stood out to me while we were catching up was not only how he was carrying his head forward of his body but also that he was working very hard to breathe in and then holding his breath.
When I asked him what he noticed when he was inhaling, he recognized that he was lifting his shoulders and tightening his neck. After he breathed in, he identified the huge amount of muscular effort he used to hold the breath in. His leg muscles tightened. His abdominal muscles clenched. AND, His lower back was overly arched and gripped. This habit made his lower back hurt.
I then showed him the video below:
He was able to see that his neck and shoulders were not supposed to work in order to receive breath. I put my hands around the bottom edge of his ribs so he was aware of the movement of his back and ribs with his breath. Here is the trick: Let breath out (instead of breathing in)
“Sharon! I feel so relaxed!!! Letting breathing out is so calming. I am always working so hard to breathe in.”
Check if you are making these mistakes with your breathing:
1) Breathing in by lifting your chest and shoulders. This requires many muscles in upper body to grip and tighten and prevents your diaphragm from moving properly in order to take in breath.
2) Holding in breath after the inhale. Holding your breath actually requires your muscles to work unnecessarily. You will also start to feel frantic, panicky, anxious, and/or nervous.
3) Controlling the breath. Your body breathes better than you do. If you are breathing in deeply, you are interfering with your body’s natural breathing coordination.
These mistakes can not only cause physical pain but also evoke nervousness, fear, and anxiety. Letting breath out releases muscles and allows your body to take care of you. Your breathes better than you.
If you want to look and feel confident when speaking to colleagues, potential clients, or that hot person that just walked into the room, join the email list at www.SharonJakubecy.com for video tips to be calm, confident, and charismatic!
Life is full of challenges, disappointments, and difficulties.
Having great energy that inspires and motivates others when public speaking takes discipline!
Like every human on the planet, I deal with relationship miscommunications, financial surprises, and bad moods.
This is life.
We all need something that gives us joy, fun, pleasure, an activity that GETS US OUT OF OUT HEADS AND INTO OUR BODIES!
When I am feeling down, frustrated, or annoyed, I go salsa dancing!!!
SALSA DANCING is my passion that gets me “high on life” so when it is time to speak in front of my audience and share my message, I am charged with positive energy,
full of joy,
and confident in my message!
Here are some lessons I have learned from salsa dancing that have helped me in my business and in public speaking:
1) When something goes wrong, SMILE AND LAUGH! Even on stage, when you smile and laugh, you don’t go into “Fight or Flight,” but stay connected to your creative thinking instead of your fear.
2) Go with the FLOW and be ready for surprises. When you are flexible, physically and mentally, you are able to adapt to surprises.
Ready to bring your positive and inspiring energy onto the stage and share your message?
Want to be calm, creative, and passionate when speaking about your business?
Go to my Facebook page and tell everyone what your passion is! http://www.facebook.com/pages/SharonJakubecycom/134819146602201
Just before CARmageddon in Los Angeles last year, I was interveiwed at the NPR studios to help listeners with traffic-related stress. I hope it helps you with any crazy traffic jams you find yourself in. Check out the link to the NPR story by Mandalit Del Barco that aired the Friday before the 405 was to be closed for an entire weekend: http://www.npr.org/2011/07/14/137838936/i-405s-closure-will-be-a-nightmare-for-l-a-drivers
Read this article and use it the next time you are stuck in traffic:
“Grrrrrr! What are all of these people doing on the road? Where could they possibly be going at this hour? What does that guy think he is doing? He is driving like a lunatic! I have been driving for 30 minutes and have only gone 8 miles! “
Driving is a necessary evil in Los Angeles. Every day, the mean travel time to work for Angelenos is just about 30 minutes. Both ways is an hour. Add on driving to the kids’ school, to the bank, the grocery store, and maybe even a trip to the gym and Angelenos are spending close to 2 hours in the car. While driving, many of my students complain about hip and lower back pain, neck stiffness, frustration, stress, and downright exasperation. During their lesson, we look at how they are using themselves while they are driving and how they can undo the destructive tension that makes this activity so unpleasant.
Betsy Salkind is a comedian and writer in LA (www.BetsySalkind.com). In one of her very first lessons, we went out to her car and investigated what she was doing that made her neck ache and her head explode. While she was driving, Betsy was slouching forward, collapsing her ribcage and spine. This position required her neck muscles to contract pulling the weight of her head back and down. She was forward of the structural support of her pelvis, so her hip joints were compressed. Her neck hurt. Her shoulders hurt. Her hips hurt.
It is possible to drive without compression and strain. For Betsy, we arranged her position in the car seat so that she let her head, neck, and back release back and up away from the steering wheel. The back of her head was supported by the headrest, which needed to be adjusted so that it didn’t tilt forward. With her head, supported by her spine, which was now long, her neck muscles were no longer straining to hold her head up. Her ribcage had room to move with her breath. **Here is an amazing little secret weapon that will help you to eliminate tension while driving** She held the steering wheel with the pinky side of her hand which helped her to stay supported by her back.
Now when she is driving Betsy doesn’t want to slouch because it makes the experience so much more stressful. She sits tall, doesn’t hold her breath, and lets her pelvis and back support her entire body. By making these simple choices for yourself, you too can drive in LA traffic without pain and stress.
For more helpful tips to be calm and confident, join my email list by visiting www.SharonJakubecy.com