You can tell a confident person almost instantly. But if I asked a hundred people to define “confidence,” they’d probably give a hundred different answers.
It’s not always about their clothes, cool stories, power poses, etc. In fact, after meeting many entrepreneurs, bestselling authors, and people around the world, I’ve noticed it’s more about what confident people don’t do that really sets them apart.
In social settings—from networking events to business meetings to dates—confident people always avoid 7 telltale signs of insecurity, anxiety, and timidness. And once you wipe out these habits from your life, you can watch your confidence grow.
1. Bragging About Your Accomplishments
I used to have a neighbor who constantly bragged about how great his life was — how he went to the best resorts, did VIP at a club, and bought expensive clothes — all within 10 seconds of seeing him. (It didn’t matter if you didn’t ask; he’d make sure to tell you.)
The problem with this kind of boasting is it’s rooted in insecurity: People like this try to mask their self-doubt by seeking approval, which leads to narcissistic behavior where they try unusually hard to show themselves in the best light possible.
But how do you separate “bragging” from simply “sharing good news?” It’s all about intention—if your goal is to get praise, it’s a pretty damn good sign you’re bragging, even if it’s just “humblebragging:”
“Professor [Susan Krauss Whitbourne, psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst] suggests stopping before you open your mouth or type something and asking: “What are you trying to accomplish? What is your goal? You have to ask yourself, ʻWhy am I sharing my information?’ ”
Truly confident people don’t brag about their lives — they don’t need to. If anything, they’re delightfully modest about their accomplishments and share praise with others.
They spend more time living their “great” life rather than calling attention to how “great” their life is. Because while it might be tempting to tell people why you’re awesome, the truth is if you really are awesome, you don’t have to tell people—they will tell you.
Instead, spend more time praising the victories of others. Don’t seek approval; give approval. Celebrate their achievements and appreciate what makes them interesting. Also, consider keeping more of your accomplishments to yourself. After all, what would happen if no one knew about them? Would they be any less special? (Or were they really just ways to get praise and validation?)
2. Being in a Hurry to Tell Your Own Stories
“You never really learn much from hearing yourself speak.”
— George Clooney
We've all been in group conversations where one person is monopolizing the entire discussion. But the need to steer conversations back to themselves is often caused by insecurity—they feel compelled to showcase their talents and don’t want anyone else’s expertise or opinions to beat theirs.
This also presents itself as “one-upmanship:” Someone tells you something that happened to them and you reply with something akin to, “Oh that’s nothing, just wait till you hear what happened to me!” Then conversation becomes like an awkward competition for who has the best story.
Yet only confident people are confident enough to not be the center of attention. They let other people share their stories, expertise, and experiences, enjoy a genuine curiosity, and feel no need to interrupt.
For example, I often meet people who’ve visited Los Angeles (my hometown), but when they say they’ve visited, I don’t jump in and blurt, “Oh, I’m from LA! Let me tell you everything!” Instead, I just ask them about their trip and take a genuine interest:
“Let the teller relish his or her own monologue. Relax and enjoy it, too, secretly knowing how much pleasure your conversation partner will have when you reveal you share the same experience. Then, when the moment is ripe, casually disclose your similarity… You emerge as a confident big cat, not a lonely little stray, hungry for quick connection with a stranger.”
— Leil Lowndes, “How To Talk To Anyone”
Also, if you tell a story and get interrupted by something, don’t just jump right back into it. Let it slide. If people cared to hear it, they’ll ask you to resume; if they didn’t care, they won’t. (It’s humbling, but you might discover people cared less about your stories than you previously thought.)
3. Correcting People Whenever They’re "Wrong"
During conversations, I notice a lot of people need to be right all the time. For example, correcting people when they make a trivial mistake or arguing if they disagree with someone. Not only is that exhausting for others, but it shows insecurity and self-righteousness:
“This inclination leads to the need to win an argument, which assures that no one is actively listening. If I need to be right, and we have differing points of view, that obviously makes you wrong. Doesn’t exactly sound like the stuff of friendships, let alone romantic relations. This compulsion to be right sidetracks our lives and impedes our learning and happiness.”
— Mel Schwartz, L.C.S.W., LINK
Confident people, however, don't hold on so tightly to their opinions. They don’t need to turn every interaction into a battle where they have to be right and everyone else has to be wrong. Instead, they understand that everyone has their own opinions and experiences and they don’t play ego games.
Give up the need to be correct all the time and learn to be comfortable with people thinking you’re wrong. If you think someone said a mistake, just let it be. (You know what they're trying to say anyway.) If someone says something you disagree with, you can let it slide or genuinely ask questions—not loaded questions—to understand where they’re coming from and learn.
4. Using Too Many Fillers
Imagine if I introduced myself by saying:
“Hi, uh, I’m Anthony. Ahh, I’m from Los Angeles and, um, I like to, you know, travel and uh, yeah.”
We all use fillers occasionally. But that’s the key word: Occasionally. If almost every other word is “uhh,” however, it’s hard to listen to and it detracts from what you say, your social confidence, and your credibility.
When speaking, confidence is about the “signal-to-noise” ratio. The higher your signal (the message you’re trying to convey) versus your noise (the ticks that detract from it), the more confident you appear. But if your noise is too high, the ratio drops and you’ll come across as unsure of yourself.
One great way to practice is to use the dictation feature on your computer or phone to type. Now you have to talk to write, which forces you to think about what you're going to say and speak each word without fillers. As you practice more, you’ll get better and talk with more clarity in real life.
Also, every time you feel like saying a filler word, try pausing instead.
5. Uptalking All The Time
Here’s a common speech habit that hurts your confidence: It’s called a high rising terminal—or “uptalk”—where the speaker ends their sentences with an upward inflection so it sounds like a question. For example, they say “I want a coffee,” but it sounds like, “I want a coffee?” (Here’s an example.)
Sure, it’s okay to use it occasionally like when asking questions. But if you say everything with uptalk, you sound unsure of yourself and unconfident.
Compare that, however, to someone who talks authoritatively. When they make sentences, they sound like sentences. They finish strongly. They sound sure of themselves.
An easy fix is to record yourself talking and hearing how your sentences sound. Then simply practice the opposite—downtalk. Finish your sentences with a neutral or downward tone just to practice breaking your habit. You’ll sound far more confident quickly.
6. Having Poor Body Language
Arms folded, legs shaking, hands in your pockets, slumped shoulders, feet tapping, biting your fingers, no eye contact, etc.—these are common body language cues that show a lack of social confidence. Instead, they make you seem like you’re protecting yourself and seem anxious, nervous, and insecure.
Instead, socially confident people look relaxed, calm, and sure of themselves. They have a good, open posture. They don’t shake, fidget, or move excessively (which also hurts their signal-to-noise ratio).
When talking, look at people in their eyes and use your hands to communicate while keeping them around your chest. Avoid touching your face or crossing your arms or legs, which shows insecurity or low confidence. Also, when listening, keep your hands by your sides and nod gently—not like a bobblehead.
7. Rambling and being long-winded
“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”
A great friend of mine, Tyler Vawser—VP of People at Apptegy—has interviewed people every single workday for over 3 years. And from his experience, the number-one problem, by far, that sabotages interviews for any position is rambling.
Talking in a longwinded, roundabout way that doesn’t “get to the point” sabotages your confidence. You lose your audience’s attention, waste time, and show you lack focus and aren’t capable of the job. Tyler also explains rambling can make someone look self-centered—as if they like to hear themselves talk or have low social intelligence (because they can’t read the room).
Confident people, however, don’t talk in a wordy, rambling way. Instead, they let each word carry weight. For this, learn how to answer questions or tell stories without getting lost in your own thoughts. Think about what details are most important and which ones to leave out.
After all, if your audience wants all the details, they’ll ask. And if they don’t, no worries—you’re confident, right?
- Never brag or boast. Instead, keep more accomplishments to yourself and become approval-giving, not approval-seeking.
- Don’t be in love with your own stories or be in a hurry to tell everything. Let other people tell their stories and enjoy listening to them.
- Stop trying to correct everyone and trying to be right all the time. Get comfortable with being wrong or letting others have different opinions.
- Avoid speech fillers—“um, uh, you know, like,” etc. Instead, pause when you feel like using a filler and practice by using the dictation feature on your computer or phone.
- Stop using “uptalk,” which is an upward inflection that makes your sentences sound like questions. Practice speaking with “downtalk” to correct your habit.
- Avoid nervous fidgeting or closed body language, which shows insecurity and anxiety. Maintain good posture, have solid eye contact, and stay relatively still (when listening).
- Don’t ramble or bore people with longwinded answers. Learn how to give concise explanations and stories and let your words carry more weight.
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