"There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas."
- Susan Cain, Author of Best-Selling Book, Quiet
We live in an extrovert-driven society, where sometimes it can feel like the only way to be successful is if you’re confident, loud, and thrive off being around others. This deep-rooted belief system makes it even more difficult for introverts to have the confidence to speak up in social situations. This often means that introvert’s valuable insights and ideas are left unspoken.
Many introverts have been left asking themselves and their extrovert peers ‘how to be confident’ and, as an introvert myself, this is something I have definitely searched Google for in the past!
If this sounds familiar to you, here are some tips that can help you increase your confidence and have your voice heard, whether in a small group conversation or a large-scale presentation.
The best tip for introverts wondering how to be confident is to prepare as much as possible beforehand (you can practice impromptu speeches for this). Preparation is an important aspect of public speaking for both introverts and extroverts; few people in the world are confident speaking in public without prior preparation.
When planning a speech or presentation, find transcripts of famous speeches or watch them online and see how the orator has structured them. Think about how they caught the audience’s attention, what the purpose of the speech was and whether the speaker fulfilled the audience’s expectations, the speed in which they spoke, etc.
Bear in mind that some of the people who you admire for their speaking skills may well be introverts themselves but are acting like extroverts.
Once you’ve written your speech and practiced aloud, film yourself practicing and see if it sounds right when someone is listening to it. Also pay attention to your body language - stand with an open stance and speak loudly and clearly.
You’re unlikely to be used to having all eyes on you and being the centre of attention so it’s a good idea to try and get used to this before speaking in public. The most effective way of doing this is using virtual reality, where you insert your phone into a virtual reality headset and you’re immersed in another environment.
Your mind is tricked into thinking you are really there and can be really useful for putting you centre stage, and allowing yourself to get used to people looking at you - all in the safety of a virtual environment.
Being confident isn’t the only skill required when speaking in public so draw on the strengths you already have. You might have unique, interesting insights to offer, or be able to ask questions that make people really think about a topic. Society often values speeches or conversations where people are funny but if you aren’t quick-witted then don’t pretend to be. You don’t have to be someone else to be confident and share your thoughts and ideas.
If you’re wondering how to be confident in social situations, then a simple trick is to deflect the conversation away from yourself. You can still play an active part in conversations by asking people questions. If you don’t know what to ask someone, you could prepare a few things beforehand, or pick up on something they’ve said about themselves and ask them to expand on that.
Whether you’re speaking to 2 people or 200, making eye contact with your audience is crucial - it’s the easiest way to connect with your audience. Make sure you make direct eye contact with specific people rather than grazing over the tops of people’s heads or staring at the back of the room. Focus on one person for a few seconds, and then focus your eye contact on someone else, and move your attention around the room each time you switch from one person to the next.
One of the best tips I’ve learnt for how to be confident is to talk to the audience beforehand. That way, you’ll feel more confident on stage feeling familiar with some of the audience members and being reassured that they don’t bite! You could then focus your eye contact on those people too.
This is a simple technique but you’ll be surprised at how well it works. You’ll feel instantly better when you smile and people will naturally be kinder to you. Next time you enter a group of people at a conference or networking event, put on a big smile and people will be much more open to talking to you.
It’s not socially acceptable to take pauses in the middle of a conversation to contemplate what the other person has said, which is another way in which society has come to be extrovert-orientated. If you need time to think before you respond to someone, whether in conversation or in reply to a questions after a presentation, there are ways of ensuring you feel comfortable in silence.
If you can, ensure that you have a glass of water nearby so that you can take a sip when you’d like to think, and plan for breaks in long conversations where you’re likely to feel drained and/or unfocused. These breaks can simply be to get a drink or use the bathroom.
To allow yourself time to think during a conversation, you could simply say ‘Give me a moment to think about that’ or ‘I’ll need a minute to think about that’ - by expressing your need to think, you’re immediately taking away any awkwardness from needing to pause. You could also ask the other person a question about their question to give you some time.
If you dress well, you’ll feel good about yourself and be ready to take on the world. It doesn’t necessarily mean buying an expensive outfit, instead wear something that fits well and is suitable for the social situation. You can even try wearing something which stands out a little to give people a reason to start a conversation with you.
Good, upright positive is an immediate sign of confidence. Folded arms, crossed legs, hunched shoulders, hands in pockets, looking down – these are just some of the protective measures that make us feel safer, and should be avoided when giving a presentation or speech. Appearing relaxed makes us exert dominance and authority.
You’ll often have times when you start doubting yourself. This could be about entering a group of people at a social event to start a conversation – you might start thinking of the things that could go wrong with it. Try and push these thoughts out of your head and focus on the possible positive outcomes from the experience.
Start listening to your thoughts and even writing a diary about your experiences and feelings when attending social situations. Analyse these thoughts and try to be rational about why you’re having them and if they are justified.
Start thinking about your limitations, and whether they’re real limitations or just ones you’ve allowed to be placed there, artificially. Dig deep within yourself, and you’ll come out with even greater self-confidence.
This can have a huge difference in how people perceive you. A person with authority usually speaks slowly – it’s a sign of confidence as they know people want to listen to them. When we think people don’t want to listen to us, we’ll talk quickly to get let other people continue to talk.
Next time you’re at a social event, consciously try to talk slowly and notice how much of a different it makes to people listening. They’ll want to listen as they are assuming you’re in a position of power.
Introverts are just as valuable, powerful, and worthy of being heard as extroverts. By working on techniques to use your introvert personality to your advantage, you’ll soon realise that you don’t have to be loud to have your ideas heard.