12 Quick Tips to Help You Feel Confident

None of us go through life with our confidence meter stuck on 100% all of the time. Why do we feel confident? Why don’t we? Improving our confidence takes self-reflection and practice.

I recently conducted a  workshop on improving self-confidence at the University of San Diego’s Women’s Center. I had about an hour to condense a broad topic into a crash course. In addition to a quick look at psychological studies of confidence issues based on gender, and providing a detailed handout for self-reflection, here are a few ideas I taught to help give your confidence a boost:

  1.  Visualization

Visualization is not about seeing yourself trying to succeed at some point in the future. It’s about using your imagination to picture and experience the desired results like they’ve already been accomplished.

Before doing something that requires confidence, go to a quiet place where you can meditate. Imagine yourself doing the actions required and the feeling of success. Visualize everything that’s going to happen; what you’re wearing, how it feels and how everything works well. To engage in full visualization, also do affirmations and move your body. By engaging everything, you can experience the whole event before it happens and be a success when it actually does.

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  1. Rewire your Brain

When you feel nervous, your body floods with adrenaline, making you feel jittery. Instead of telling yourself you feel nervous, say “Yay! My superpower is here!” Adrenaline has helped people lift cars off people who are trapped, it’s like magic. Say “I’m SO EXCITED!!”  instead of “I’m nervous.” The more you focus on thinking of nervousness as a good thing, your brain will begin to associate it with positive, not negative, feelings.

  1. Put together a “Change My Attitude” playlist

Think about songs that make you feel happy or motivated, then put together a playlist on your favorite music device. Hearing these songs will help you feel empowered.  If you’re in a funk or need to change the way you feel, listen to songs that uplift you. An example is American Author’s “Best Day of My Life.”


  1. Stop Caring About Other People’s Opinions and Comparing Yourself to Others

          Have an honest conversation with yourself about what makes you care about other people’s opinions. When you were a baby, you were happy and free. Then people’s opinions began to intrude. Your parents & relatives, friends, teachers etc. put labels on what they thought you were and were not.

How much have you let what other people think of you define who you are? Take time to identify and root out old labels that don’t apply to you, or ones you still need to conquer.

Also, don’t compare your life to other people’s lives, bodies, houses, families etc. Most times, we don’t know the difficulties people are going through because they don’t reveal their problems. Not many people get on Facebook or Twitter and say “I gained 50 pounds!” or “I’m crushed by a mountain of debt!”

Be happy with who you are and don’t reach for an “ideal” based on images sold by the media or on social media.


  1. Stay Present

          Learn to let go of the past and don’t worry about the future. Stay present. By being present, we connect with others. When we’re not on our iPhones, rehashing our failures or obsessing about the future, staying present in the moment can help minimize our fears.

  1. Likeability/Listening

What makes a person likeable? They’re present, they connect and they listen. Everyone wants to be noticed.  Ask people you meet, from your barista to your family, “How’s your day?” Ask  follow-up questions if they give you a quick “Fine.” Engage and find out more. There are lots of things to learn from other people. If you listen without judgment, people will learn to like and trust you, adding to your confidence.

  1. Gratitude

Instead of focusing on your problems and what you don’t have, take time to reflect on what you do have. When you believe and embrace that anything is possible, you come into vibration with a positive energy that helps you achieve your goals. Take  stock of what you have, not what you don’t.

     8. Never Stop Learning

          To have more confidence, it helps to know what you’re doing, and that’s where learning comes in. Even when you think you know what you’re doing, there’s more to learn.  If you don’t know an answer, don’t guess. Say “I’m going to find out!”  In this information age, it’s easy.

Knowledge gives you power. Facts give you power. When you’re able to say “I know that because…” and can give a concrete example or reference, it lends you more credibility and helps you feel confident.

  1. Perspective

          We have all reached a certain point in life by going through problems. When you face a challenge, think about what you’ve navigated before, how you succeeded and where this problem falls compared to others you’ve lived through.


  1. Use Positive Self-Talk and Affirmations

Don’t let the traitor in your brain talk about failure. When you hear negative talk, visualize trapping the traitor in a closet, bound and gagged!   Watch what you think/say. Instead of “I’m trying to lose weight,” say “I’m losing weight.”

A common phrase people say to themselves is “I can’t”. When you say to yourself “I can’t,”  you are creating a barrier. This will prevent you from achieving a task you could otherwise succeed at.   If you would like to be successful, you need to start saying “I can” a lot more.  When you hear or say something negative, say “Delete, Delete, Delete. ”

  1. Confront Your Fears

Ask yourself what you are afraid of. Then ask, “What is the worst that can happen?” Go through each step of the process and see if you can change your attitude. By breaking things into small steps, they will seem much more manageable. Every journey begins with one step. Don’t let fear stop you from going on what could be a fantastic journey.

  1. Use Body Language and Presence Awareness to Project Confidence

            Before you go into a situation that requires you to feel confidence, do what Ted Talk presenter and Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy has suggested– strike a power pose: Put your hands on  your hips like Wonder Woman, above your head like you just won a race or other power positions that helps you feel more confident. Do some deep breathing to calm yourself and, if giving a talk, do some voice warm-ups so your voice doesn’t sound shallow or crack. Enter the room with good energy, project confidence and you will look like you’re ready to take on the world.

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        You can do it!  Take these tips, apply them and give your confidence a quick boost.



          Know-It-Alls, Bullies, Whiners, Gossips, Angry Aggressors, Passives…

          We’ve all come across toxic people, in both our work and personal lives. But what do you do when you’re stuck dealing with one for more than a prolonged encounter?

During a recent seminar I taught on how to read body language, an attendee had a question. It began with him describing how a co-worker sat with one hand behind his head and what that meant. This was easy to decipher. The guy was practically yelling “I’m superior to everyone!”

Businessman sitting in chair, hands behind head, smiling, portrait, cut out

But the attendee’s concern didn’t stop there. He wanted to know how to deal with this self-important co-worker, a guy who thought he knew everything, but didn’t. The man’s ignorance was impacting their projects negatively and he wasn’t sure how to approach the situation.

In many of the classes I’ve taught, no matter the subject, someone usually has a question about how to get around a person who has become the bane of their existence.

If you have someone plaguing your life, here are some thoughts on how to overcome the problem.

  1. Don’t Escalate the Situation

          Many times, toxic people can be neutralized without a fight. In the case of the arrogant and ignorant worker described above, I told the attendee to first try a non-confrontational approach. In Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art, a key principle is to yield to an oncoming attack by redirecting the incoming energy rather than meeting it with an opposing force.

Here, I suggested the attendee/manager try letting his subordinate save face by saying “I’m sure you already know this, but…” and filling the guy in on his missing knowledge. Hopefully, by phrasing this in an agreeable way, the co-worker would finish his part of the project and feel kindly toward my attendee for helping him.

Often, people who are arrogant and angry are insecure, or they might have too much to handle in life. Try to look past the bluster and see if you can find a kind way to handle the problem before moving on to a more aggressive solution.


  1. See If You’re Contributing to the Problem

          Many of the people who ask about how to neutralize a difficult person don’t want to. They’re not sure of themselves or don’t want to “cause problems” by saying anything. If this sounds like you, you have two choices: Act or Suffer in Silence.

There’s also a flip side of that, of course. When confronted, some people get angry and the situation becomes a shouting match or devolves into a physical confrontation.

Imagine you’re in a room with a number of colleagues and another co-worker approaches and begins to berate you loudly about the things you do wrong.  No matter if what’s being said is true or untrue, what do you do?


          A good way to stop someone from continuing their diatribe is to remove them from the vicinity.  First, ask them to step outside the room. This takes the person away from their audience and has them comply with something you’ve asked, changing the “power” structure.  If it seems like they won’t go, you can gesture to the door and walk away. They will probably follow. Once outside the room, step closer to them, within 6-8 inches of their face, and hold eye contact. This move invades their personal space, showing by body language that you aren’t afraid. Keeping your voice quiet and calm, tell them you’ll be glad to discuss any issue they might have with you, but in a more private and civilized way.

This maneuver usually stops and de-escalates the situation. If it doesn’t, go with the next tactic.

  1. Don’t Engage the Devil

Although it’s tempting to argue or defend yourself, sometimes it’s best to walk away. Do a calm assessment of the situation. If you come to the conclusion that nothing you say will change the other person’s attitude, leave.

You might want to have it out, but if it doesn’t change anything, wasting your breath and time will have the same effect as saying the same things to a wall. Don’t bother. You can’t always control another person’s actions, but you can control your reactions.



How to Detect a Liar

Let’s face it, everyone lies.

Lies can run the spectrum from trying not to hurt someone’s feelings to toxic manipulation in work, life or love.

Can you tell when someone is lying?

Fortunately, with a little practice, liars can become easy to spot. These simple tips will help you not be deceived.

Listen To What Is Being Said

“Timmy, did you eat one of the cookies without asking?” a mom questions her six year old.

“No, Mommy. I did not eat one of the cookies without asking.”

If you know what to look for, Timmy’s words tell you he’s guilty.

Think about a time you’ve been falsely accused. You probably got pretty heated in your defense. If Timmy were innocent, his words might have been “No, Mommy! I didn’t!”

Instead, Timmy repeats his mother’s words verbatim and in an almost robotic way. The next time you hear this type of response, you’ll know you’ve got a guilty party on your hands.

Another way people tip off they’re lying is when they change mid-story from using the pronoun “I” to something else. When people talk, they want the spotlight on them, but if their actions are called into question, they want a metaphorical crowd to share responsibility.

Here’s an example:

I got that project completed by coming in early today.”

“Did you add in the stats that the manager asked for?”

“Well, we planned on it.”


Watch For Added or Deleted Facts

Let’s take a simple question to a significant other, “How was the gym?”

If there isn’t deception, he or she might answer, “I had a great workout. I got really pumped.”

What if they’re feeling guilty about something, maybe having a flirtatious conversation with a hot fitness instructor?

Their answer could change into a lengthy description of the crowds, the equipment, and the lack of towels in the locker rooms or forgetting their water bottle. Why all the unnecessary details? They want to divert the listener from what they perceive as a potential problem by adding facts.

Next, imagine conversing with someone about their day. They talk in detail about things that happened, like what they did at work in the morning or what they ate for lunch. That afternoon, unbeknownst to you, they got into a car accident on their way to the store and fled the scene.

Here’s the conversation:

“How was your lunch?”

“Great! I had some pizza with Lisa at this great little Italian place downtown.”

“What did you do after that?”

“Not much.”

The speaker has gone from detailed and natural to closed.

They might also use passion in their words where it’s unexpected. For example, “I drove to the store” might be injected with more passion than is warranted for the words and seem out of place.

In both of these situations, it’s likely that the speaker isn’t telling the truth or is hiding something. In order to catch them out, keep asking specific questions and see if you get direct and appropriate answers.

Watch Body Language

In addition to listening carefully, you can tell someone’s lying by their body language. Using these two skills together increase your chances of not being fooled.

  • People who lie put up barriers. Maybe it’s a hand, fingers or raised water bottle placed over the mouth, folded arms, crossed legs or getting up and going behind a desk, table or other object mid-conversation.
  • They fidget. They play with their clothing, touch their nose, tap their fingers, twitch their legs or move their feet.
  • They drop eye contact, signifying shame or that they’re hiding something.
  • Their gestures change. People normally gesture straight ahead and up in front of their bodies. Their gestures might move to the side, like they’re shoving something away when trying to deflect guilt.
  • Their facial movements don’t match their words. Think about at time someone gave you a gift you didn’t like. You said “I love it!” and then you smiled. If you had truly loved it, your smile would have coincided with your words.
  • Sometimes when people lie, they lock down their facial gestures or have tight lips.

A Few Final Tips

Think about a skilled interviewer, like Barbara Walters. She’s able to elicit information by building a rapport with her guest before going in for the hard questions. When she is going to ask a more difficult question, she moves her body forward, getting closer to her subject so they have confidence that they can share openly with her.

If you want to uncover the truth, first establish rapport. Then use a series of clear questions that elicit a narrative response, rather than a simple yes or no. If you suspect that some of the answers aren’t true, ask more questions.

Keep your body in a power position, with your shoulders squared and maintain good eye contact. Watch for verbal signs, especially unnecessary facts. See if the person becomes more or less talkative or diverts away from the topic.

Watch for body language changes such as blocking, fidgeting or facial expressions that don’t match the words being used.

A fun way to practice your skills is to watch people being interviewed. Check for all the things we’ve discussed and see what you can spot. Soon you’ll be a human lie detector and it will be of great use in your personal and professional relationships. Happy Hunting!

Adding Drama to Public Speaking

Every time we talk, we use different tones of voice, gestures and body language. When it comes to public speaking, it’s no different. After determining what message you want to convey and crafting a speech, be it inspirational, educational or humorous, the hard work has just begun, because it’s time to determine how to present your material.


To give perspective, imagine that tonight you’re attending a charity event where the keynote speaker is going to advocate for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s.

The speaker comes on stage, stops in the center and stands still. He doesn’t make eye contact with the audience. When he speaks, it’s difficult to hear him. If he moves his arms at all, it’s to clasp his hands in the front and wring them together.  In a monotone, he talks about his elderly father, who had once been the CEO of a successful company, who liked to compete in tennis tournaments and had a fondness of dancing. Now, his father can’t remember anything or anyone in his family. These facts are conveyed like the speaker is reading from a list. The speaker urges you to give money to help fund research to eradicate Alzheimer’s, then walks off the stage, still not looking at the crowd.


How would you feel? Would you be moved to give money? You probably would because you care about the cause.  However, did the speaker’s words as conveyed move you to action? Did they move you to contribute even more than you’d intended? Probably not.

Now, imagine a speaker coming on stage and looking out at the audience. He begins by saying “My father achieved many things in his life. He started from a poor background, put himself through school working several jobs and became the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.” Now, the speaker moves, reaches out with his hands above shoulder height and, in a vibrant voice, says “He was larger than life to me.” Then he drops them back to his sides. “He used to be a top tennis player.” The speaker makes a motion like hitting a ball. “And he loved to dance.” He mimes dancing with a partner. He goes on to say “Now, Dad’s in a wheelchair.” His tone has changed, softened. His hands grip an imaginary chair and he pushes it a few feet along. Then he stops and looks back at the audience. “When I visit him, he doesn’t know who I am. He doesn’t know my mother, his wife of 45 years, or remember any of the successes he’s had.” The speaker pauses. “All because of Alzheimer’s.”

Are you there with the speaker? Do you imagine his father as he was, and how he is now? When you’re asked to contribute money, will you give a little more because the devastation of the disease has been brought so clearly into your mind?

Back to your speech: It’s time to begin rooting out unnecessary language. Hone your words until you communicate exactly what you want. Consider whether your words are telling the story and evoking the emotion you intended from the listener.

When performing a speech, you should always think about the following:

  • Vocal Variety, including tone of voice, rate, pitch, use of different voices to bring characters to life and pause.
  • Body Language, including gestures, use of act-outs to bring drama to words, facial expressions and eye contact.
  • Energy

Vocal Variety

Varying your voice is what emphasizes your words in a speech. Rate is the pace of your words, tone is the intention behind them and pitch is the sound of your voice.


 Rate is perhaps the easiest to understand. A basic mistake is talking too fast because of nerves.  It takes practice to slow down and speak like you’re having a conversation with a friend. If you have jokes, are you pausing after your punch line to give the audience time to laugh? If you’ve said something you want the listeners to take time to digest, do you pause? Your rate should vary throughout your speech, so be sure to analyze your text and practice.

Tone is more complicated, and takes even more thought.

There’s a poem by an unknown author called The Tone of Voice. It says, in part:

It’s not so much what you say

          As the manner in which you say it;

It’s not so much the language you use

          As the tone in which you convey it.

          “Come here! I sharply said,

          And the child cowered and wept.

          “Come here,” I said-

          He looked and smiled

          And straight to my lap he crept.

         Words may be mild and fair

          But the tone may pierce like a dart;

          Words may be soft as the summer air

          But the tone may break my heart;

          For words come from the mind

          Grow by study and art–

          But tone leaps from the inner self,

          Revealing the state of the heart…

I’m sure you’ve had to sit through lectures delivered in a monotone, been scolded by a parent, enjoyed soft words from a loved one, heard an emotional plea from a friend or a call to action by a politician. Each time we speak, we need to consider what tone of voice to use and, throughout our speech, what response we want to evoke in our audience. Our voice is our primary tool to bring about the result we hope from our listeners, but can be made more dynamic by our use of the stage or lecture space, our energy and body language.

Look at the words of your speech. What tone do you want to use for each phrase? Some speakers think they need to increase volume on their key points, but sometimes softening and speaking in a quiet tone actually brings about a better effect.

The best thing to do is tape yourself reading your speech exactly as you’d perform it, then listen. You’ll be able to hear where you need to improve. Better yet, enlist someone you trust to give you honest feedback.

Pitch is how you sound when speaking. Sometimes, when people get nervous or excited, their voices go up and up in pitch. The deeper tones of a speaker’s voice resonate better with a listener’s ear. If you’re gifted with a resonant speaking voice, that’s a starting advantage. Still, no matter whether you’re blessed or need assistance, you can always improve the richness and quality of your voice by doing voice exercises or hiring a voice coach. You will learn body posture and breathing, do tongue twisters to loosen up, exercises to improve the timbre of your voice and more. All of this will add to the quality of your performance.

When speaking in a large facility without a microphone, you have to project your voice so everyone can hear you. Picture bouncing your voice off the back wall and you will get some idea of how much energy you’ll have to put into it.

Energy is what you bring to your performance. Think about when you’re tired, sick or simply “not feeling it.” If you don’t have energy to put into your performance, you’ll come off as uninspiring or merely adequate. Sure, you might be better than other speakers on a technical level, but you have to amplify your energetic output for your message to be fully conveyed and appreciated. Sometimes we think we’re putting across an emotion, but it’s not enough. It’s easy to bring to mind an actor’s performance that felt flat. That person didn’t put enough of themselves into their role. The same thing goes with public speaking.

 Body Language

When you first start out in public speaking, gripping the edges of the podium and glancing nervously at your notes might be the best you can do. That’s okay. As you progress, moving away from the podium, even if you have to keep a hand on it like a life preserver, is a good move forward.

We use gestures when we speak and don’t really think about them. They come naturally. When it comes to public speaking, it sometimes seems that we suddenly don’t know what to do with our hands and arms. Our facial expressions become wooden and we can’t make eye contact. The first thing to do if this happens is to take a deep breath. Breathing helps to relax your body and bring oxygen to your brain. Breathe deep into your belly, below your navel, for best results.

At the start of your speech, you should stand still and have limited movement. The audience needs time to get used to you.


In speaking, whenever you’re using gestures, they should be both natural and planned. Imagine when you’re telling someone how tall a child is. You might bring your hand to the height level to further demonstrate what you’re saying. Gestures in a speech are no different. If there are phrases that can be emphasized through use of body language, think about them and plan them into your talk. Gestures are made above your elbow height and can also include your head, nodding or shaking it to emphasize your words.


 A quick way to see if you have gesture is to videotape yourself doing your speech.  Sometimes we unknowingly make the same gesture repeatedly, which can distract from the message. Also, the larger the stage, the larger your gestures should be. What might be appropriate in a one-on-one conversation won’t convey the same message to a larger audience.


Darren LaCroix, the 2001 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking, famously fell to the floor of the stage during his world championship winning speech and stayed down for uncomfortable moments. This was done purposefully to emphasize failure, by literally falling on his face. He then talked about how to get back up and overcome obstacles. This dramatic move was an “act-out” of his words and something that caught the audience and judges’ attention.

Darren Henderson, 2010 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking, wore a World War II bomber jacket, helmet and goggles to add to his words about pretending to be a pilot. He then acted out play-fighting arial battles with a childhood friend, pretending to talk into a hand-held radio microphone to emphasize his words, which were “Snoopy One to Snoopy Two.”

Act-outs can be as simple as smelling an imaginary flower, pretending to open a door or anything that adds to the picture you’re painting with your words. You don’t have to be that dramatic to emphasize your words, but look at the text of your speech and determine if there are movements you can do that will add to the visuals of your message



If you’ve attended a live play, you might notice an actor who doesn’t grab your attention. That’s because they might be having an off day and not putting as much of themselves into their performance as necessary.

The energy level of a speaker can affect the way his or her message is received. For instance, if you have a cold and have to give a presentation to an audience of 200 people, you’re right to be concerned. A speaker has to give out their own energy and enthusiasm to engage an audience and, if you don’t feel good, you’re going to come across as flat.

Unless you’re Steve Jobs, with an audience already on the edge of its seat waiting the announcement of a new Apple product, speaking to live audiences requires your energy  be “larger than life.” This doesn’t mean you have to be someone else. In fact, the best public speakers sound like they’re having a conversation with an old friend, but you need to be aware of the venue and audience size so you can gauge how much energy you have to put into your performance.


After you’ve written your speech, look for opportunities in the text for vocal variety and use of body language. Adding these ingredients will make your message more dynamic and stay in the minds of your listeners.

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