The eternal conundrum: in order to be successful you need to be confident, but in order to be confident you need to first have a certain amount of success under your belt. It’s a classic case of chicken-and-egg on anabolic steroids.
This leads us to the second conundrum: it’s very difficult to fake success, so how can one be successful at faking confidence?
Some lucky buggers are born with it. Forget them. Adulation is the last thing they need right now. For the rest of us mortals – those who blather distilled balderdash when conversing with an object of desire; those who wince at their trembling, sweaty interview handshake; those who shrink under the stern-eyed gaze of a disgruntled figure of authority – the only solution is mass duping.
Fraudulent? Perhaps. Necessary? Very. Basic stuff like maintaining eye-contact, upright posture, a convincing smile, a measured pace of speech, and quashing a nervous laugh can be conditioned via the physiological training of muscular memory. Eventually, if you practise it enough and as long as the boredom of repetition doesn’t rot your spleen, it’ll become automatic. So no more slumping.
The tougher stuff, however, such as ensuring that the actual content of said measured speech isn’t utter gibberish that sends your conversational partner running bug-eyed for the hills, requires a bit more effort. People might be able to ascribe the wild look in your peepers to an endearing case of over-enthusiasm, but it’s more difficult to excuse the fact that you just informed him/her that they remind you of your great uncle Egbert, who had a penchant for slingshots and whose kiss was as whiskery as the limp skins of woodland rodents he hung out to dry on his picket fence. This faux-pas is particularly crippling if your conversational partner happens to be female.
One way to tackle a dribbly case of verbal diarrhoea is to not underestimate The Power Of Silence. It doesn’t take an Egghead to spot the better option in a choice between bleating forth a hapless sequence of Tourettes-style mumbo jumbo, or going for the strong ‘n’ silent approach. You might not wow your audience with perspicacious insights if you roll with the latter but at least you won’t put your foot in the proverbial muck; and if you play it right, you might even walk away with a debonair aura of intrigue.
Another approach is to subvert the situation in your own head. We’ve all heard of the public speaking trick of imagining your audience stark-bollock-naked or straining on the toilet (it’s widespread because it works), but if you don’t desire to stoop to such base levels, you can always imagine that you’re simply playing a role. Become someone else. Someone better / someone worse / someone with three heads and webbed feet – whatever. It’s not the opening night of the show, of course, only a rehearsal. Mere horseplay. If it’s just acting, and the situation isn’t real, one unshackles oneself from natural nerves and inhibitions to a certain extent. A word of caution: this doesn’t give you a carte blanche to dart off and snog the most attractive person in the vicinity.
Failing that? No matter how daunting any situation might be, at the end of the day, NOTHING REALLY MATTERS. Nothing really matters at all. Dance around your bedroom singing Bohemian Rhapsody into a hairbrush if you must. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that jazz – our entire lives are nothing more than a fleeting blink in the indifferent eyelids of eternity. BOOM.
So what we’re essentially left with is a reticent, nihilistic Don Juan/Dona Juanina of a person, complete with three heads and webbed feet. If that doesn’t inspire you with confidence… nothing will.