My phone buzzed and I saw a reminder for a networking event I had completely forgotten about. It had been a long day, and I was looking forward to home sweet home. Being one who values time, I’m always crossing my fingers and praying any event at all is not a waste of my precious time. Lord knows, I could be more productive writing stories people would read someday, or reading a book while enjoying a smoothie straight from the blender thingy so I don’t have to wash two items for one meal. Well, after much contemplation, I decided to attend. Who knows? Something interesting might happen.

So far, everyone most people look sane…

I walked into the bar, skeptic of the fruitfulness of this affair. I saw people who looked sane; many bobbing their heads officiously as they literally leaned in to the other party’s conversation. After a quick scan I settled on a group cackling with laughter—they seemed to be having fun. The ritual of handshaking and introduction commenced. So far, so good. No weak, clammy handshakes or its dreaded sister—the death grip.

For some reason, I was particularly attentive to handshakes. Perhaps because I would experience for the first time ever, the death grip from this petite woman. Do you know what a death grip is? It’s when the other person almost crushes your phalanges to smithereens for confidence’s sake. Oh the pain! It shot through my arm as though several knives had been jabbed into my wrist. When I regained feelings back in my arm I could only say, “You are very strong, do you know that?” Conversely, I also experienced the stroke shake which unfortunately many people give. You know, when they shake with just the finger tips rather than their whole palm. For reasons that elude me, women tend to give the stroke shake. What am I supposed to do with your loose grip?

What confidence looks like…

Confident people are effortlessly charming and have a magnetic aura about them. No, heaven did not kiss them with self-confidence, although some people are more ‘natural’ than others. Confident people are folks who trust their abilities and have mastered the skill of self-confidence by honing the qualities that make others want to engage with them. They say a firm handshake portrays confidence (and it does) but there are other behaviors that do the same. The art of confidence is a skill that involves balancing deliberate actions like smiling and maintaining eye contact, analyzing body language and micro expressions, attentive listening, and a host of other behaviors. Have you watched presidents and other public figures? Don’t they ooze self-confidence as if they emerged from the birth canal with it stamped on their foreheads? Well, a lot of them had to practice, practice and practice and you can do it too. Particularly for women, getting over that timidity and projecting confidence could just be the attribute that puts you ahead in the race for that promotion.

Fake it till you become it

If you’re interested in “acting” confident, here are some basics:

  • Look people in the eye

Maintain eye contact when speaking or shaking hands. Looking away could imply timidity or lack of confidence. People want to associate with folks who look reliable, so don’t be afraid to give and maintain eye contact. Now, having said that, don’t give the death stare.

  • Be a ballerina

Ok, you don’t have to be a ballerina but you gotta have good posture. Stand up straight and no slouching if you’re seating. Do the peacock: spread out and occupy space by broadening your shoulders. If you’re standing, spread your legs just a wee bit to stay grounded. Refrain from any posture that makes you appear smaller.

  • Could you speak a little louder?

Confident people project their voice, timid people don’t. Unless you’re in a play or in your bathroom delivering a soliloquy, there’s no need to suppress your voice when addressing others. Don’t speak too fast or too slow and don’t slur your speech either. It doesn’t matter if you have an accent, own it but speak clearly and audibly.

  • Physical appearance

Whether you like it or not, your appearance matters and it will be judged despite the good ol’ “do not judge a book by its cover.” If you don’t have a cover, get one and make sure it’s a darn good cover. Whatever you wear, make sure it something you like and feel confident in. Your gait, your willingness to not look like something the cat dragged in (what I am trying to say is, iron your clothes before wearing them), and everything I’ve talked about and more, all matter. Remember, first impressions are hard to erase.

  • Have something to say

I know, I hate small talk too but I’d rather have small talk a hundred times over than hang with boring people! Learn to initiate and hold an interesting by compiling a mental library of topics to discuss intelligently. Another benefit is you’ll have less awkward moments of silence where you wish you could just disappear. Side note: This might not apply to elevator rides. Some people just want to get off on the 10th floor and that’s it.

Self-confidence is your job not God’s

Self-confidence is not walking around with an air of arrogance, it is simply knowing, accepting and trusting your value as an individual. When you feel comfortable in your skin, people see that and it’s admirable. Self-confidence is not a gift from God; it’s a skill you acquire by practice until you actually become it. Not even anyone can diminish your self-confidence if you’ve mastered it.

Here are some interesting TED talks to help you. Enjoy!

Happy Monday. Seriously, have a very happy Monday.