Projecting Confidence in the Workplace


I recently asked a group of business owners, “Which is more important for success—confidence or talent?” The consensus was confidence. You can be the most talented, knowledgeable or skilled person, but if you do not have the confidence to assert yourself, these abilities go to waste. After more than 15 years experience counseling professionals, I recommend the following strategies to project confidence in the workplace:

Take care of yourself. Get proper rest and nutrition. Exercise is key to feeling strong, empowered and self-confident. Practice self-care by engaging in leisure activities.

Look the part. Make an effort to project the image you want to reflect in the workplace. Select professional attire that makes you feel great to boost your confidence and help others take you seriously.

Reflect strength in your body language. Stand tall. Keep your shoulders back. Sit up and maintain good posture during meetings. Be mindful of hand gestures, such as wringing your hands or fidgeting with your hair, that reveal insecurity or anxiety. Sit back in your chair rather than perched on the edge. Shake hands firmly. Walk with purpose.

Smile and maintain eye contact. A majority of communication is non-verbal, so be mindful of your facial expressions. A broad smile projects confidence and puts others at ease. Strong eye contact reflects self-assuredness, while looking down or around might reveal self-doubt. A grimace, a furrowed brow or bugging of the eyes, even if momentarily, suggests you are overwhelmed.

Use assertive language. Use strong words that project confidence rather than passive language.

Passive                                                        Assertive

“I might be willing to try that.”                “I absolutely will do that.”

“Maybe I could do that.”                            “Yes, I will do that.”

“I kind of think so.”                                     “I believe that.”

“I don’t know.”                                             “I will find out.”

“Okay, sure.”                                                 “Yes, of course.”

Avoid self-deprecating humor. While occasionally poking fun at yourself is healthy and shows you are not an egomaniac, self-deprecating humor in the workplace can inadvertently lessen others’ opinion of you. By sharing a story where you were a space cadet, you may be teaching others that you are unreliable. Many women use self-deprecating humor as a way to appear less threatening and make other women comfortable, but you can unintentionally shoot yourself in the foot if you make this a habit at work.

Be your own best cheerleader. Keep your self-talk positive and silence your inner critic. Have a positive mantra, such as, “I am strong and capable.”

Don’t overly apologize. As women, we are socialized to be gracious and to take responsibility for our mistakes. This is a strength that can become a deficit if you apologize for things that were not your fault or were beyond your control.

Be willing to take a risk. Aim high and put yourself out there. Speak up at the meeting, apply for your dream job, go for the promotion or volunteer for the project that is out of your comfort zone. Be willing to grow and learn new things. The more experiences you have under your belt, the more competent you will feel.

Model yourself after your hero. Have a mentor. Think of how somebody you admire would conduct herself and model your behavior after hers.

And lastly, fake it ‘till you make it!


About Joyce Marter

Joyce Marter is a owner of Urban Balance, LLC, a counseling group practice with 45 therapists and five locations in Chicagoland. She provides organizational development services, executive coaching, wellness seminars and training. She was selected by Crain's Chicago Business for the '40 Under 40' list of 2010.