How People Show Confidence Through Body Language

We all inherently know how it looks and feels, to some degree, and are able to recognize signs of confidence.

What is the body language like of a person with very high self-confidence? originally appeared on Quora, the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Despite popular belief, showing confidence through body language is not necessarily about using big overt gestures and attempting to take up as much space as possible. Confident body language is surprisingly simple and often very subtle.

Although many of us may not be able to articulate what confident body language looks like, we all inherently know how it looks and feels, to some degree, and are able to recognize signs of confidence and nervousness almost automatically. In fact, it has been shown that children as young as two years old are able to recognize nonverbal displays of confidence and are more likely to follow the instructions of an adult displaying confidence than an adult not displaying confidence. For example, picture an individual with a broad and upright posture with their chin pointed up. Now picture a second individual with a slumped posture, leaning forward with their chin slightly tucked so their head is bowed, and their limbs are pressed close to their body. From this alone it is clear that the first individual is more confident. Additionally, if you now adopt these two postures yourself, you are likely to experience a change in how confident you feel.

Our posture communicates a great deal about our confidence, an individual high in confidence will stand tall and broad rather than slouched. The accompanying gestures that an individual shows whilst speaking is also an important indicator of confidence, or the absence of it. Confident individuals will avoid adopting self-touch displays, such as touching their face or hair and cupping or rubbing the hands together, as these are indicators of stress and nervousness. Confident individuals will also keep their hands relatively away from their body, with smooth hand gestures that are coordinated with their speech. Gestures that are too rapid or stiff are noticeable indicators of social discomfort or anxiousness.

However, it is important to distinguish between displays of confidence and that of dominance. Dominance is focused on controlling the room and attempting to assert yourself as being in a position of authority to others, whilst confidence is self-orientated and simply about your feelings towards yourself and your abilities. The accompanying body language, whilst somewhat overlapping, is distinct. Dominant individuals will use bold expensive and exaggerated gestures, attempting to take up as much space as possible, possibly encroaching on the space of others. Displaying confidence is more about showing that you are comfortable in the space around you than it about proving that you can dominate a space.

Another important indicator is an individual’s gaze behavior. Signals of confidence include being comfortable to look around the room, as well as maintain direct eye contact with others. This is different to the fixated gaze or staring observed in dominant individuals or the rapid eye movements and averted gaze associated with nervousness.

To sum, being able to show confidence through body language is not a trivial matter, when we exhibit confidence nonverbally, we are perceived as more competent, more powerful, and are able to achieve more influence. With this in mind, what does your body language say about you?

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