Why is it that some people command attention when they speak? And what makes some people more influential than others when they state a position?
Buckets of money are spent every year on training to become a more dynamic speaker, and rhetorical devices of all kinds are deployed to make a particular case more compelling to the listener. But it may be something much simpler at work.
Turns out that the human brain is wired to almost instantly detect confidence in a speaker’s voice. That’s what captures our attention and indicates that the person is worth listening to, rightly or wrongly.
Recent research took a group of volunteers and affixed 64 electrodes to each of their heads while they listened to a series of statements. The results indicate that the brain detects and evaluates confidence in a speaker’s voice in as little as 0.2 seconds – faster than the blink of an eye.
Confident speech lit up the brains of the subjects at much higher levels then neutral or unconfident statements. Nearly-confident speech had a similar affect but took about 130 milliseconds longer, suggesting that it took more work for the volunteers to determine if confidence was present.
So, if you want to command attention and be influential, simply be confident. Simple, but not easy, right?
According to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, co-authors of The Confidence Code, “Confidence is life’s enabler – it is the quality that turns thoughts into action.” And yet many people struggle with self-confidence, especially women in the workplace, which is who Kay and Shipman seek to help with their book.
One way to speak confidently, of course, it to know what you’re talking about. As we’ve seen, the very act of explaining what you’ve learned to others solidifies your own understanding, which in turn increases your confidence when discussing the topic.
For many people, however, knowing your stuff is not enough. In fact, plenty of people with significant expertise may get drowned out by someone who is simply more assertive in their delivery.
So, how do we increase our confidence levels? From a review of the advice out there, one theme seems to recur – the fear of failure is what kills confidence.
Now, I’m not sure anyone enjoys making mistakes. But it’s how you deal with them when they inevitably happen that makes the difference.
Failure is feedback, nothing more. You tried something, it didn’t work, you learn and you keep trying. With that attitude, your general confidence level will rise, because mistakes are nothing more than a necessary part of the process.
The maddening thing about increasing confidence is that you build it by taking action – the very action that’s testing your confidence in the first place. You push yourself out of your comfort zone in order to expand it.
“Nerves are normal – everyone has them,” say Kay and Shipman. “The difference between a confident person and an unconfident person is simply that the confident person acts on their ambitions and desires and doesn’t let fear of failure stop them.”
Self-confidence becomes the natural result of your own personal growth. So maybe don’t worry about it as a goal … just keep pushing further and your increased confidence will reveal itself.
- Your Brain Never Stops Playing the Confidence Game
- The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance
- Six Habits Of Confident People
The day job is kicking my tail for the next two weeks, so I’m going to skip the links and leave it at the Feature article for today. Hit reply and tell me if the links are your favorite part, but be nice. 😉
In the meantime, why not dive into the archives?