In a professional setting, projecting confidence can make or break an interaction and have a significant impact on how others perceive your character and professional abilities. Those who appear confident are often assumed to be more capable in their jobs and more worthy of trust and respect.
Your communication style can play a significant role in projecting confidence. Changing the way you speak is one of the first and most important steps in achieving an air of confidence and success. Your tone of voice, rate of speech, and other non-verbal cues often say more about your message than your words themselves. Subtle changes in your voice and presentation create a significant difference in how your message is received.
One key aspect of speech that can be modified to project confidence is how quickly you speak. Many people, when nervous or excited, tend to speak too quickly. Rushing through your words not only makes it difficult for others to understand you, but also makes it seem as though you are nervous and trying to get speaking over with as quickly as possible. Be aware of this pitfall, and concentrate on using a controlled, even rate of speech. This will help you to appear confident and knowledgeable about the topic on which you’re speaking and give your listener the impression that what you have to say is worth taking the time to listen to.
Intonation can also play a role in projecting confidence. One intonation pattern that can be particularly damaging is upspeak or high-rising intonation. Upspeak, made famous by the 1980s “Valley girl” accent, is characterized by raising your pitch at the end of a sentence so that statements sound like questions. This pattern gives off an air of insecurity and makes it seem that you are unsure of yourself and seeking your listener’s approval. Take care to avoid this pattern, and end each sentence authoritatively.
Another speech habit that can be fatal to projecting confidence is the use of ‘filler’ words. People often pepper their speech with words such as “um”, “uh”, “like” or “you know” which contain no content, add nothing to the message, and interrupt the flow of speech. For example, many people find themselves in the habit of ending sentences with, question words like “okay?” “right?” “see?” or “you know what I mean?” Others use “um” at the beginning of sentences or when transitioning from one thought to another. In order to reduce your reliance on filler words, try identifying where you most commonly use fillers, and briefly pause instead. Many people avoid pauses because they are uncomfortable with silence, but a brief pause will give you a moment to collect your thoughts, allow your listeners to absorb your message, and will sound much more confident and professional than needless fillers.
Finally, take note of your volume when speaking. A strong, well-projected voice makes you sound authoritative and like a natural leader. While you don’t want to shout, speaking with a strong volume gives others the impression that you are saying something worth listening to. Speaking too quietly can make it seem as though you’re not fully sure of what it is you’re saying, or that you don’t feel it’s really important.
Strong professional communication skills are critical to projecting confidence and achieving success in the workplace. By following the strategies above, you can change your communication style to one that tells clients and colleagues that you are a confident leader with a message worth listening too. If you’d like to make more significant changes in your communication style, you may want to enlist the help of a corporate speech-language pathologist who can provide communication training to target your specific needs. Learn to communicate with clarity and confidence, and take your career to the next level!
About the Author
Jayne Latz is an expert in communication and CEO of Corporate Speech Solutions, LLC. She has worked as a speech trainer, coach, professional speaker, and has co-authored two books titled, Talking Business: A Guide to Professional Communication and Talking Business: When English is Your Second Language. She was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal and on The TODAY Show.