Speaking with confidence: go ahead and smile!

Smiling is a life skill that can be connected to confidence and success. Learn to speak with confidence by exploring the five Ss successful lawyers master – smiling is one of them!

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Smile! It confuses people?” That phrase alone makes me want to smile! Smiling can be classified as a non-verbal communication tool. It gives others insight into thoughts, feelings and emotions that may be happening in that moment. Although you won’t find smiling on the Iowa State University Targeting Life Skills Model, smiling is a life skill that can be connected to confidence and success.

The American Bar Association published an article written by Christine Clapp, teacher of public speaking at George Washington University, where she indicated five secrets successful lawyers must master to speak with confidence. While written for lawyers, these tips aren’t just for the courtroom: the secrets Clapp discloses can help individuals speak confidently no matter where they are. Learn the secrets yourself – they’re easy to remember if you can think of the five Ss.

  1. Stance. Stand firm and tall with your feet planted on the ground about hip distance apart with your weight equally distributed. Be sure not to rock, sway, tap or pace. Excellent posture conveys confidence before a single word is spoken.
  2. Sound. With posture being the foundation, project your voice by speaking from the diaphragm, not the throat. Speak louder than you think you should. How many times have you left a presentation thinking, “That speaker was just too loud?”
  3. Smile. Smiling actually makes your voice more pleasant to listen to and it conveys confidence. Even if you’re terrified of public speaking, no one will know if you have a smile on your face as smiling makes you look more friendly, approachable and composed.
  4. Silence. Use long pauses. Because we’re of a culture that doesn’t like silence, we often fill time with junk words like “um,” “you know,” “like” and “well.” These habits make speakers look unpolished, unprepared and unprofessional. Overcome this by correcting yourself in casual conversations and ask those you care about to help point it out when you slip up. Remember any pause before an audience feels like an eternity to the speaker, but not to the audience.
  5. Sight. Make lasting eye contact. Hold your gaze on an audience member for five to seven seconds. Lingering eye contact builds rapport by giving audience members the feeling they are engaged in an intimate one-on-one conversation. Avoid scanning the room without stopping to look directly at anyone. Remember audiences want you to speak to them, not at them.

Want to be a more confident speaker? Michigan State University Extension encourages you to practice this skill and perfect it! Go ahead and smile! It won’t actually confuse people, but it will show them you are on the verge of success! You’re a confident individual and that confidence can be seen by the look on your face and we’ll hear it with the words that you say.

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