You’ve heard the old saying “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” But if you want to project a sense of authority at work—the kind of alpha-male assertiveness that screams “leadership!” to your supervisors and coworkers—it’s going to take more than a sharp suit and a power tie.
From the ways you sit and stand to your hand gestures, your body language often speaks louder than your voice when it comes to other people’s opinions of you. Here are a few simple tips to garner confidence from your colleagues and bolster your clout at work.
Open, expansive body postures signal to others that you’re comfortable, confident, and in control of your environment, shows research from Stanford University. When you’re sitting down, drape an arm on a nearby chair back and spread your knees. You’ll seem more powerful than guys who sit with their arms and legs crossed, which are closed, defensive postures, the Stanford study team says. The same goes when you’re standing: the Superman pose—hands on waist and feet apart—signals authority.
KEEP YOUR CHIN UP
When your head’s up and your shoulders are back, not only do you project strength and confidence but you also feel stronger and more confident in yourself, suggests a study from the Harvard Business School. In fact, those Harvard researchers found people who spent time on cell phones—an activity that forces your head down and pull your shoulders in—tended to feel less assertive.
EXPOSE YOUR THROAT
When you’re speaking with someone, keep your hands away from your neck. Just like a frightened animal will try to protect its throat from predators, human beings tend to raise their hands up to their neck area when feeling threatened, finds research from the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. Whether you’re scratching the back of your neck or rubbing the front of your throat, these gestures signal that you’re unsure of yourself, worried, or otherwise lacking confidence.
MIND YOUR HANDS
Another sign of uncertainty or self-doubt: Touching your lips or mouth. Especially when you’re speaking, bringing a hand up to your mouth telegraphs to the room that you’re not confident about the words you’re speaking, according to Eliot Hoppe’s book Everyone’s Guide to Body Language.
WALK LIKE A CEO
Small or meandering steps signal unease and vulnerability, according to another Journal of Nonverbal Behavior study. But long, confident strides and a brisk pace convey a sense of confidence. Keep your head up, your shoulders back, and power stride from point A to point B, and you’ll project a sense of urgency and importance, the study suggests.
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, PUMP SOME IRON
It’s tough to keep a handle on all these nonverbal cues. The good news (or bad news, depending on how you look at it) is that by bolstering your confidence, you’re more likely to adopt all these power poses without trying. How can you do that? Exercise. A University of Florida study found people who exercise feel more confident, regardless of how in-shape they look. The more you work out, the better you feel about yourself, the study concludes.