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Do you ever find yourself at a bar, standing around alone wishing you could approach that cute girl? Or maybe you’re at a networking event and you really want to speak to a VIP, but then you just talk yourself out of it. Our nerves get the best of us, our confidence takes a shot and we just can’t seem to muster up what we need to make connections we really want to make.
As a communication coach, I’ve learned that your confidence and social skills are highly intertwined.
Think about it – doesn’t it feel good when you make someone laugh or you approach a stranger and have an awesome conversation? Today I’m going to share six actionable tips that you can use to build your confidence and begin approaching people to have successful conversations.
You begin thinking about all the ways it could go wrong. The girl may reject you, the VIP may not think you’re worth his time, that coworker you pass in the hallway may not smile back.
Here are three ways to boost your confidence before approaching someone you may find intimidating. Those who held high power poses (prideful, relaxed, taking up space like putting their feet on the desk) showed lower levels of cortisol and increased testosterone levels, making people feel more confident, more willing to take risks and less stressed. The above illustration shows 5 poses done from the study that you can emulate when you need a confidence boost! High power poses consist of simple poses where you’re taking up space or feeling relaxed or victorious.
You can stand with your arms in the air as if you just completed a marathon and crossed the finish line or you may be relaxed with your feet on a desk and your body relaxed. Another option is to stand proud like Superman with your feed wide apart and your hands on your hips. You may think this is cheesy, but top athletes and performers use visualization as a way to win Olympic events and perform at peak levels. Visualizing in vivid detail is a great way to build motivation towards doing something you may find intimidating because you activate the same sensory and motor parts of the brain that are involved with the action you’re visualizing.
This means that when you’re visualizing you’re activating the parts of the brain as if you were actually doing what you want to do. In both groups, the same physical changes in the brain were found in the motor cortex and after three days their accuracy was exactly the same regardless of how they practiced.
That’s the strength of visualization, it’s a way to activate the areas in your brain as if you were actually performing the action itself.
When you feel the urge to approach someone you may hear that inner-critic in your head that speaks up and tells you things about how you’re not good enough or how the interaction will go wrong. In order to convey confidence, you’re going to have to control what is going on in your head.

You may find that that inner-voice is beating yourself up over little things or causing self-doubt.
This is not a quick fix, building your confidence takes time, energy and effort but it’s important to take the first step and begin identifying the types of stories you’re telling yourself. If you’re telling yourself you’re not good enough, you’ll convince yourself of this and never become the best version of the person you can be. So put a reminder on your phone for once every few hours to start off as a reminder to observe what is going on in your mind. If you double check yourself and realize that your mind has wandered, don’t beat yourself up about it. You may want to take a few deep breaths to get back into the moment or you may want to begin visualizing what the other person is talking about, imagining their story in your mind to feel engaged again. Now that we’ve covered systematic ways to start boosting your confidence, the next three tips cover how to make the approach.
Think about it, have you ever met someone and immediately formed a strong opinion about them? Of all the characteristics we use to judge people, researchers found that attractiveness and trustworthiness are the characteristics we judge the quickest.
Once you decide whether or not you like someone, it’s pretty hard to change your mind. Well, humans are lazy and after forming that opinion, there’s a ton of cognitive processing (aka brain power) involved in figuring out whether your snap judgements are accurate or not. Instead, confirmation bias gets the best of you so that you seek information that confirms what you already think about someone and that strengthens the initial judgement.
Now that you understand the science behind first impressions, let’s talk about the most effective ways to make the impression that you want to make. As a communication coach, I always hear people complain about how small talk sucks, but guess what guys? When people make first impressions, they’re largely looking for two main characteristics that account for 80-90% of their impressions and that is trustworthiness and confidence.
The mistake that most men make is that they’re so obsessed with showing power and confidence that they forget about the importance of trustworthiness. Amy Cuddy, the Harvard social psychologist recommends using small talk to build trust by genuinely trying to learn about someone else, it conveys trust and warmth. Find out what the person you’re speaking to is interested in and what their passions are.
The other thing to notice is that the questions are about them, making them the center of the conversation. Research has shown that clothing is another key factor when it comes to making first impressions.

Since your goal is to make an effective first impressions that conveys trust, one of the best ways to show trust is to use eye contact. It helps show someone that you’re present and paying attention, thus making them feel important. Studies show that adults make eye contact between 30-60% of the time, but people should be making eye contact 60-70% of the time to create a sense of emotional connection which is what you’re looking for. Your social skills and confidence are intertwined, by actively working on improving these aspects of your life, you’ll find yourself feeling naturally confident in social situations. In order to improve your confidence, use the strategies we discussed like visualization, power poses and becoming aware of what is going on in your mind. Katrina helps people who struggle with social anxiety and social confidence by sharing strategies using change psychology, confidence building and habit transformation.
20121 Kings 8:28 -- But please listen to my prayer and my request, because I am your servant. When that happens you tend to take less “social risks,” fear builds up because you don’t want to feel that way again.
If you want a more powerful pose, you can lean forward with your hands on a prop like a table.
If you don’t want to be obvious about it, simply go to the bathroom and stand like Superman (with your hands on your hips for 2 minutes). One group was told to physically practice, while the other was told to “mentally” practice by visualizing playing the piano.
Staying present means being in the moment versus ruminating about the laundry you have to do when you get home or all the negative self-talk about how the person you’re speaking with may be judging you. Snap judgements are made extremely quickly – studies have shown that these opinions form in one-tenth of a second. If you’re looking for a framework on asking people good questions, check out this post.
Being vulnerable is scary and when you’re conditioned to avoid it, your confidence suffers. In order to build your confidence, you have to master your story by gaining control over that inner-voice.
You can do this by using small talk, making sure you look presentable and maintaining eye contact.

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