10 Ways to Communicate Confidence Nonverbally


As a young child, I was outgoing, confident, and friendly. I would approach strangers without a second thought (much to my parents’ dismay), boss my friends and siblings around, easily make new friends on the playground, and join every speech contest, play, talent show, dance performance, and singing competition I could.

As I edged out of elementary school and into my teen years though, my confidence and my body language began to collapse. This is not uncommon, especially for girls, as body language expert Amy Cuddy mentioned in an interview with Susan Cain. Many teens grow out of their awkward, anxious stages and regain confidence as they near adulthood. For me though, I got smaller and smaller.

The wonderful and terrible thing about body language is that it creates a feedback loop. The way you hold and present yourself sends a message to others and they respond accordingly. Let’s say you project that you’re shy or nervous or unsure of yourself… people then treat you as if that’s true. If it happens frequently, the message gets reinforced and you start to believe that you are a shy or nervous or unsure person, instead of someone who occasionally feels that way as happens to everyone. Additionally, the way you hold and present yourself also sends a message directly to your very own brain. Before long, you define yourself in terms of feelings and behavior, instead of in terms of aspirational values and beliefs.

This feedback loop also applies to confidence. If you believe you have value, even if you’re feeling shy or nervous or unsure, you can present yourself with confidence. You send a totally different message. People treat you as if you are confident and valuable, and you send that message to your brain as well. Eventually you will look and feel more confident.

Communicating with respectful confidence—not arrogance or dogmatism, but reality-based confidenceimproves your ability to connect with others, get your point across, and achieve success. It’s good for you—good for your mental health, your relationships, and your career.

Here are ten ways you can communicate confidence nonverbally to others and your own brain, in order to change your presence, your self-image, and your life:


1.  Posture

You know what confident posture looks like when you see it, so simply start doing it:

  • Stand or sit up tall to your full height
  • Weight balanced over both feet
  • Shoulders back
  • Relaxed arms

Balance a strong, authoritative posture with openness. If you’re standing straight and tall but hugging your arms fiercely around yourself, for example, you look threatened. Confidence isn’t uptight or anxious. It doesn’t have anything to prove. You communicate confidence with posture that is both grounded and comfortable.


2.  Head

Keep your head up. If you must use your phone while you’re trying to convey confidence, hold it out in front of you, instead of down by your belly button. Not only does that help you keep your posture erect and open, but your neck muscles will jump for joy and gratitude. Better yet, when you’re in the presence of others, ditch the phone at every opportunity.

Hold your head high, though not so high it looks like your chin or nose are in the air. That gives the impression you’re looking down on others and conveys arrogance, not confidence. Keep your head level and straight.


3.  Eye Contact

Look people in the eye. Some of the time. Yes, yes, I know. You’ve been told all your life to look people in the eye when they’re talking to you. So do that. But if you never look away, you’re staring—staring is creepy at best. It can be downright threatening and invasive. So definitely do make eye contact, especially when you have something to smile about, preferably about 50% of the time.


4.  Arms & Hands

The most neutral, open, and confident positions for your arms are either 1) down by your side, or 2) gently clasped in front of your body, about belly button height. You can also combine the two: one arm down and one in front of your body. If you clasp your hands too much higher than your belly button, it looks like you’re pleading. If they’re much lower than your belly button (very, very common! now that you know, start looking for it), you look defensive and threatened, as if you need to protect yourself.

Letting your hands hang by your side or holding them in front of you, frankly, feels awkward for most people at first. Get used to it. Not that you always have to hold your arms parallel or perpendicular to the floor—when you’re in a relaxed environment, chilling with friends and family, not needing to project a confident image, go ahead and put your hands in your pockets or clasp them behind your back or cross them over your chest. I don’t care! I promise the Body Language Police won’t come nab you. But when you’re in a situation where you want or need to convey confidence, let go of your comfy arm positions and use the neutral, open, confident positions instead.


5.  Voice

To communicate confidence, use a strong, smooth, flat voice pattern that curls down at the ends of statements. There’s nothing wrong with curling your voice up, especially if you’re asking a question or seeking input, but if all your statements end on an upswing (also known as “upspeak”), you damage your credibility.

A smooth, flat voice doesn’t have to sound like a robot. If your posture is grounded and comfortable, your voice will sound that way, too. As voice coach Julian Treasure says, we trust people who have low, strong, authoritative voices, especially when they’re also warm and smooth, like hot chocolate. Who doesn’t want to listen to someone with a voice like that?


6.  Pauses

Be willing to speak up with that strong, smooth voice, but to really communicate confidence, also be willing to pause. Speaking too quickly or too much will cause others to tune you out. It’s hard to process without any space for your words to sink in. People will remember more the less you say and the more you pause.

But beyond that, pausing communicates confidence because most people are afraid of silence in conversations or presentations. Therefore, silence gets attention. Being willing and able to command attention without the use of words makes a stronger impression than nervously filling each second with verbiage. Stillness, breathing, and claiming space (see below) will fill the silence with your presence instead of awkwardness.


7.  Stillness

Don’t freeze as if you’re a statue, but keep your body calm. A calm body suggests a calm mind. Fidgeting suggests either nervousness or impatience—the opposite of a confident presence. You convey more power and prestige through stillness than through bouncing, nodding, touching your face or hair, wringing your hands, or tapping your foot. This is likely not news to you; the key is to notice and adjust in the moment.


8.  Walk

When you do need to move, do so with purpose and intention. Walk briskly, in a straight line, with your head held high. That doesn’t mean you need to hurry. Scurrying around doesn’t convey any more confidence than meandering aimlessly. But when in motion, keep your movements fluid, open, and purposeful.


9.  Breathing

Breathing affects all aspect of your nonverbal communication, especially your movements and voice tone. When you’re stressed, anxious, or angry, your body tenses and your breathing pattern changes. This causes your movements to become stiff and jerky and your voice to sound edgy. You can’t have sweeping, fluid motion or a “hot chocolate” voice if you’re breathing shallowly.

In addition, through your uncoordinated movements and agitated voice, others can tell that you’re stressed, anxious, or angry—in other words, they can tell that you feel threatened and not particularly confident. By breathing deeply, you look, sound, and feel more confident.


10.  Space

To communicate confidence, you need to acknowledge, interact within, and claim a space that includes more than just yourself. Whether you’re having a one-on-one conversation, participating in a meeting, or presenting to a huge audience, you need to claim a space that is big enough for everyone. This takes some energy and practice, but it also takes confidence. When you claim space, you invite others to engage with you. Though they may not be able to articulate what they experience, people notice how much space you claim and whether or not they are included. The bigger the space you claim, the more presence you have and confidence you convey.


How you present yourself to others matters. Perhaps it shouldn’t. Perhaps the world would be a better place if no one ever made snap judgments about other people based on first impressions and body language. But the human brain is wired to take as many shortcuts as possible, so I think we’re stuck with this reality for a while. And as mentioned, your body language not only sends signals to others, but to your own brain. By embodying confidence, you change the way others perceive you and the way you feel about yourself.

Looking back over the list, what is one thing you want to turn into a habit? Find a way to remind yourself throughout the day to sit up tall or uncross your arms or take a breath. By consistently communicating confidence, you can change your self-image and your presence, gain credibility, and move forward in your career.


Change your communication, change your life.

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