Has it ever happen to you that you suddenly became the center of attention and you panicked?
During meetings, networking events, or when newly met people asked you about yourself and your work?
Have you ever felt like you should be shining through the social interaction but you would much rather escape it all together?
Even though I am now a confident coach, so much so that I teach coaching, and although I am considered to be a super-confident extrovert by many, my closest would know that it’s a result of hard work.
There were times when I would avoid interactions — my heart would beat so loud that it would be actually painful for my ears.
I am pretty tall for a woman with my 172 centimeters (5,64 feet) but I managed to shrink myself close to invisible — my shoulders leaning forward, my eyes fixed to the floor.
The buzz in my head: “Oh my God! Oh my God! A stranger is approaching, what do I say? Where’s the nearest exit?” made me look like as if I was being hunted. I was masterful at deflecting people with no words, just by my appearance.
And then I started to lead my first team. And realized that I represent them and the way I act and appear sheds somewhat the same light on them. It was a bunch of super intelligent and smart people and I didn’t want to let them down.
And that inspired me to get out of my shell. I’ve read loads of books on influence and communication and presenting and leadership and step by step I managed to get myself to a place where I am in the present moment and pretty much fearless.
Does it mean that I have no doubts?
No. It doesn’t.
But I do know that hind side is 20/20 and I don’t beat myself any more. I have learned to prepare, practice, reflect, and learn. I have also learned how to get to the flow and just do it. And here is how.
Get Free. Be Your True Self.
It all comes down to…
What if you could just accept yourself for who you are?
What if you could feel good in your own skin, get your points across, and feel in control?
Easier said than done? Impossible? Never gonna happen?
Well, it has to happen. And it can. You can do it. And it’s scientifically proven.
A study led by Dr. Aurelio Cortese from the Advanced Telecommunication Research Institute in Kyoto, Japan, has provided neuroscientific evidence that it is well possible to rewire your brain for higher self-confidence.
As Dr. Cortese puts it in the conclusion of his study: “We demonstrated with a novel and powerful neurofeedback technique that we can manipulate perceptual confidence bi-directionally without changing task performance.”
Become a First Impression Pro
You only have one chance to make a first impression they say.
When you have time to prepare, you dress for success, you study your counterpart, you rehearse things to say. Yet, sadly, we often perform the worst when it matters the most. And even worse, what if you are put on the spot unexpectedly?
The simplest thing you can do is to have your elevator pitch handy.
Prepare an introduction you could give during the way down to a co-traveler in the same elevator. Who you are, what is interesting about you, what are you after, and what is your passion.
Skip industry jargon and make it short and sweet — just around 200 words. Rehearse it in front of the mirror and practice, practice, practice.
When you feel you made it, think about different flavors for different audiences and you will never have regrets about missing your chance of creating a great impression.
Get Your Brain To The Gym
Every second, our brain is bombarded with estimated 400 billion bits of information. 10,000,000 bits per second is processed by our eyes, 1,000,000 bits per second by our skin, 100,000 bits by our ears, another 100,000 by our smell and 1,000 bits per second by our taste. Impressive, isn’t it?
Consciously, however, we are only aware of about 2,000 bits per second.
The critical barrier that is part of our conscious mind filters about 99,994% of information so that we don’t get overwhelmed. The rest of the information our brain is bombarded with is processed at our super brain level — our subconscious mind.
What’s in it for you?
Well, for one, know you can train your conscious mind to choose the information you want to get presented to you. While it does take some effort for a period of time, once you internalize it, it is yours forever. Because your mind likes to walk on familiar paths.
So all you need to do is to make an effort to rewire your brain to focus on the positive. The more you experience success, the more your mind will be feeding you with success experiences back.
The beauty is that it is super simple and you don’t even have to get out of your shell initially.
Your subconscious mind thinks in pictures and can’t tell the difference between what you experience in your imagination and what you experience in reality.
So experience success and get used to it!
And remember, your mind likes to walk on familiar paths. You will need to invest in doing the exercise below daily, if not multiple times per day.
Picture yourself in situations where you present confidently, where you react with confidence when asked a question, where you feel good in your skin. The more colorful the picture, the better.
Get all your senses to help you when you create these powerful images in your mind. Feel the taste of the food at the catering, the air conditioning at the conference, hear the chatter in the room, realize how you physically feel if you act with high self-esteem.
Anchor Your Ship In A Safe Harbor
In the 19th century, foundation has been laid for the research of conditional reflexes by I.P. Pavlov. He made a set of experiments with animals. For example, he would keep the dogs in the dark, and would turn the light on when he would feed them. He noticed that the dogs started to drool anytime he turn the light on in the expectation of being fed. This is how the concept of conditional reflexes was first discovered.
In the 20th century, scientists Richard Bandler and John Grinder made an extensive research in the area of understanding and changing the human behavior. They figured a whole new way to apply conditional reflexes for self-help — the anchoring.
Bandler and Grinder are the founding fathers of the Neuro Linguistic Programming (or NLP). It’s a methodology for effective change of behavior on both conscious and subconscious level and anchoring is one of its major pillars.
Here’s how you do it:
- You think of a spot that you don’t touch often, such as your earlobe or your knuckle. That spot will become your anchor.
- You take your brain to the gym (as per above). You visualize success as vividly as possible. Hear what you would hear, see what you would see, feel the feel-great feeling you’d feel.
- You push your anchor.
- Repeat frequently and regularly so that your anchor becomes strong enough.
Ta-daa! That’s all.
You will know your anchor is strong enough the next time you need a confidence boost. You push your anchor and wait for your conditional reflex to bring you the feelings you anchored there.
Win The Game
Now that your brain knows what success looks like and feels like, take action.
Step outside of your comfort zone. Nothing big. Just small actions that strengthen confident brain patterns and make you experience success in reality.
Smile at a stranger who passes by. In the worst case scenario, your stranger doesn’t smile back. So what. You will probably never meet him or her ever again. Either way: it’s one smile — and two people have a better day.
Ask for coffee flavors or a home made lemonade of the day in your favorite coffee shop.
Buddy with your beloved ones . Ask them to poke you gently. Maybe start a common story and pass the floor to you to finish it. Or at least pass the floor back to you if you fall back to your old habit to let them finish the story for you.
Be ready for the blank state. The best thing to do when you are asked a question you are not ready to answer is to ask for clarification. That way you are not only buying time, but you are also getting additional perspective on what is the motivation of your partner. Make them feel special.
Practice with like-minded people — easy first. Everything will make you feel more and more confident until one day you find that you win even in situations that once felt scary. After all, your scary audience is just humans too!
Make The Silver Lining
Dress for success
Think about the dress code that is appropriate for the opportunity and adopt your style accordingly.
Not always it is straight forward: for example, even applying to a manager job can be worth a thought. While showing up in a suit and tie is more than appropriate for an interview for a manager job in a bank, it’s way off in IT where you are expected to show up in a T-shirt from a geeky conference.
Dress so you are your authentic self and feel comfortable, so that you look comfortable and confident. You may reflect your personality to your style, yet, make sound judgement of how much personality is just too much:-)
Mind your body language
As famous stage coach Tony Robbins puts it: “Emotion is created by motion. Whatever you are feeling right now is related to how you are using your body.”
Start with observing how you stand when you interact with others. Self-awareness is the very first step!
Are you leaning your shoulders forward? Your head to one side? Do you have most of your weight on just one leg? Do you study your shoe laces? Fidget with your hands?
If you want to be confident and look confident, here is how you want to stand in stead.
Open your chest, straighten your back. Raise your chin slightly and maintain eye contact. If that’s too difficult, look just a little bit above your counterpart’s eyes, they won’t notice the difference.
Stand still, feet hip wide or even a little wider, weight in the middle. You will look centered and grounded if you are centered and grounded — and the other way round!
Whenever anybody praises you, take a note of it. Don’t judge, just take a note. Maintain a running list of nice things people said about you. And then get back to this list whenever your well of self-esteem is running dry.
Studies say that it takes minimum of three weeks and on average 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Do not worry if you pick a practice and it takes some time to feel natural. Because it will not take long and you will get there. You will finally feel like no question can surprise you. You will have your first impression under control. You will make connections easily. Suddenly, the old insecure you will be gone and you will be on top of the game.