Confidence is one thing you absolutely must have in the job search and that will set you apart from other candidates. So, if you’re feeling less than confident about that job interview, what can you do? Fake it ‘til you make it, as they say, with body language.
There are various numbers floating around out there about the percentage of communication that is actually nonverbal, some suggesting it’s as high as 93%. That seems highly unlikely to be true. Janine Driver, president of The Body Language Institute in Washington, DC, says nonverbal communication is “50 per cent of the message,” still a significant amount. And body language affects not just how others perceive us but how we perceive ourselves, meaning that if you hold yourself with confidence, you will feel more confident. It’s that simple.
Driver shared with us some tips on how to make this idea work for you.
If we’re feeling nervous or anxious, we tend to fidget. Driver says, “You’re going to start playing with your cuticles, moving your foot 100 miles an hour.” Instead, she suggests you do “toe push ups,” which are what they sound like: push our toes down inside your shoe. “If you’re nervous, do ten toe push ups. No one is going to see you bending your toes going ‘one and two and three and four.’ And you can get that stress and anxiety out.”
Even better, she says, is the “Superman pose.” Stand with your legs apart, puff yourself out, put your hands on your hips. The point is to take up space. Do it before you go in for the crucial moment, says Driver. (Maybe you should take your hands off your hips before you actually meet with someone. It might look weird).
“We know, thanks to Harvard University and Dr. Amy Cuddy, that if you take up space, if you are confident, you will decrease stress and anxiety, literally your cortisol [a hormone released when we are stressed] levels will decrease by about 25 per cent and your testosterone, which is connected with bravado and confidence, will increase.”
If you’re nervous, the opposite effect will occur. If you are in an enclosed posture and feeling small, you will increase your stress and anxiety, says Driver, along with your cortisol levels.
And if you want to look smart, Driver says, grab our chin. Really? Really.
“A great move to do if you’re asked a tough question is to grab your chin. I say, ‘When you grab your chin you’re about to win.’ Powerful people are seen grabbing their chins; Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Steve Jobs. Even as a 20-year-old kid Steve Jobs was a chin grabber. We associate that move with success, popularity, prestige, money, celebrity-ism. Instead of getting your Master’s degree or your PhD, just start grabbing your chin more often. People will think you’re intelligent even if you’re dumb.”
Steepling the fingers has also been suggested as a power signifier by body language experts, but Driver suggests you use it with caution.
“When you steeple, you intimidate people,” she explains, “I think that the steeple is a dangerous move. If you steeple at the wrong time, like when you’re trying to build rapport, you might as well be saying “Hi! I’m so happy to meet you,” with your middle fingers up. A steeple is good, once you’ve built rapport, at the end of the close, when you’ve got someone to sign on the dotted line. Then you steeple. The steeple will get people to stop pushing you around and stepping all over you.”
Another way to boost your confidence quickly is to clap your hands once and rub them together, says Driver. “That sends a trigger to your brain that something exciting is about to happen.” Try it now! Do you feel excited?
Finally, Driver offers a couple of timing-related pointers that have less to do with body language or the interview, but are valuable for everyday life.
“Understand when to approach people. If you’re being introduced to someone for the first time, do not be introduced over cocktails. Wait until they are actually eating their meal. Research shows that when someone is eating a good meal and you’re introduced to that person, they look at you in a positive light because all these endorphins are going and they associate that good feeling with you.”
Also, “If you want to get more ‘yesses’ in your life, start asking people for things after they’ve had a caffeinated beverage. Don’t go in and ask your boss at 8 o’clock in the morning if you can have Friday off. Wait until ten o’clock, when he’s got three cups of coffee in his system.”
Good to know.
Try Driver’s tips for faking confidence and see if they make a difference for you. Hopefully you’ll go from faking it to making it before you know it.