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How to Develop Poise

A Personal Perspective: Make a self-assessment and learn how to improve.

Terimakasih0 on Pixabay
Source: Terimakasih0 on Pixabay

People are more credible if they appear poised, that is, calm and confident. But that’s easier said than done, especially under stress.

The Foundation of Poise

Some people can fake it but it’s best if you can actually be poised. Consider these two questions:

Would an objective person say you deserve to feel calm and confident in this situation? For example, if you’re looking for a romantic partner, are you a kind person who’d make a good partner? You may or may not be a 10, but have you made a reasonable effort to look good? If you’re to give a presentation, do you have sufficient expertise? Are you reasonably prepared: For example, an index card with talking points: ideas that are important but not obvious to your audience, perhaps driving them home with anecdotes and statistics?

Do you suffer from undeserved insecurity? Rationally you know you deserve to be poised in that situation, yet still, you’re more nervous than most people would be. Remind yourself that you deserve to be invited to that party, give that talk, meet that romantic partner.

The Tactics

Now let’s turn to the external: components of what your audience will perceive as poise.

Posture. When in that situation, will you have shoulders back, back straight, chin level, or slightly up? When Barack Obama was making an important, often controversial point, he tended to lift his chin slightly, making him seem confident in his assertion.

Body movement. Do you fidget or wave your hands indiscriminately? It’s fine to use your hands, but it needs to be purposeful. And like a spice, if you use it too much it’s overwhelming. For example, if you're standing, don't pace. Also, keep your hands at your side but when exhorting your audience, maybe take a step toward them, raise your arms, and extend your hands out to the audience in supplication.

Voice. We sound more credible when our baseline pitch is near the bottom of our natural range. If you try to lower your voice further, you’ll sound gravelly and perhaps phony. It is fine to briefly raise or lower your pitch to emphasize a point.

A poised pace is a relatively slow one. Not only does that suggest you’re confident, it gives your audience time to process what you’re saying, not just to understand it but to think about how it might be relevant to their life. Again, like a musician, it’s fine to speed up and especially to slow down to make a point.

Smiling. You might just want to remember that a pleasant facial expression is a sign of poise. If you want to be more studied about it, try out various smiles in the mirror and when you find a small smile and a full smile that you like, practice them so they enter your muscle memory. Before entering the room or beginning a talk, wear that small smile and then, at appropriate moments, show the big one.

Eye contact. If you’re speaking with one person, look into their eyes roughly two-thirds of the time—more can be offputting, less can make you seem insecure, or that you don’t care about the person. If you’re talking to a group, as you speak, look into the eyes of the person on the far left side for a second, then into the eyes of the person to their right for a second. When you reach the far right, reverse field.

The takeaway

Of course, some people are naturally poised, charisma oozing from their pores, but poise is learnable.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

For more on gaining poise and charisma, see Gaining Charisma.