Want to be Heard? Speak with Confidence
Whether we like it or not, first impressions make a difference, and if you’re trying to establish yourself as a credible, influential person, how you speak is just as important as what you say. From the moment we begin speaking, we give off non-verbal queues to help the audience form its opinion. One such method that people use to determine whether or not they trust a speaker is the speaker’s perceived confidence. Those who speak in a more confident tone are perceived to be more credible and influential than those who appear to be less confident.
In a March 2015 Forbes magazine article, writer David DiSalvo discusses scientific research related to people’s perceptions of confident speakers. He states, “…the brain detects and assesses confidence in another’s voice in as little as 0.2 seconds.” Thankfully, there are ways in which you can inflect more confidence into your speech patterns.
Set your pitch
The first step toward speaking confidently involves setting your pitch. Your natural tone of voice is the best for conveying confidence, but many people don’t use their natural tone for a variety of reasons. If you tend to speak in a higher or lower pitch than the one you’d use naturally, then check it before making a speech in which you’d like to influence people. In a 2012 article in Women’s Health magazine, Kristen Dold offers the following advice for finding your pitch. “To find your natural pitch, relax your throat and make an “mm-hmm” noise. Do it again, maintaining that sound while moving into a sentence like, ‘Mm-hmmm, that’s what I thought.'”
Once you’ve found your natural pitch, practice projecting. While some people have voices that carry, many people tend to speak too softly which can undermine your confident appearance. When actors train for a theatrical production, they are taught to deliver lines all the way to the rafters, and the same techniques work for voice projection in every day life. Toastmasters International, a leading organization that specializes in helping people become better speakers, advises people to make sure that they are breathing with their entire body when they speak. Practice deep breathing techniques by using meditation or yoga, or take an acting class to help develop your ability to project your voice. Once you’ve mastered these techniques, you can use them in everyday life to convey confidence whenever you speak.
Perfect your posture
Knowing your pitch and how to control it are essential steps toward speaking confidently, and the next step is posture. Confidence is evident in every part of your being, including your body language. If you’ve ever watched people walking down the street, you’ve probably noticed that confident people tend to walk with their heads held high and their shoulders back, while less confident people tend to look down a lot and walk with hunched shoulders. Confident people are also more comfortable with eye contact. Even if you’ve mastered the art of projecting confidence with your vocal inflections, your credibility will be shot if you fail to make eye contact with your audience. While speaking, make sure that you hold a relaxed, yet authoritative posture and be sure to look members of your audience in the eyes.
Finally, the best way to speak confidently is to build up your natural confidence. Identify what it is that makes you insecure about yourself or your subject matter and make goals to overcome these obstacles. Web Psychology contributor Barbara Bronson Gray authored a piece on setting and achieving goals, which is an excellent way to build up your self esteem. The article makes offers several tips on making realistic goals and setting realistic expectations for yourself, which is a key contributor in developing self confidence.
Speaking confidently is not a skill that can be developed over night, but with small steps and a lot of practice, it’s possible for everyone. If you have trouble speaking confidently, join an organization such as the aforementioned Toastmasters, or take some public speaking classes. Practicing in a safe environment with people who have similar weaknesses can help you overcome them.