Have you ever prepped yourself for an upcoming presentation only to inexplicably lose every ounce of self-assurance the moment you walk through the door? Even Olympic medalists have admitted to feeling an occasional wave of low self-esteem, proving that we could all use some confidence-boosting pointers from time to time. Thankfully, Business Insider has compiled a scientifically proven guide to appearing more competent, confident, and professional. As the publication points out, possessing and projecting competence can be regarded differently—and unfortunately, cultural norms like gender stereotypes can factor into the equation. That being said, we've pulled three of the most intriguing science-backed tricks that can instantly help you exude professionalism and poise.
Ask follow-up questions. One experiment by Harvard Business School revealed that university students who completed a series of digital tasks with a computer-simulated partner rated their "buddy" more competent when it asked for their advice following the project. The 2015 study concluded that students felt that their experience and intelligence were validated when asked to offer their input. On the contrary, a separate study published in The Leadership Quality that same year found that men who held leadership positions were "perceived [to have less] competence" if they sought help. However, women leaders were not held to the same standard.
Speak quickly. A 1975 study conducted by Brigham Young University surveyed students who listened to recordings of six people whose voices had been slowed down or sped up. Researchers discovered that the participants "rated the speakers most competent when their voices had been sped up and least competent when their voices had been slowed down." That's not all: A 1991 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin discovered that fast talkers may also be more likely to win a debate, suggesting that opponents had less time to process their assertions.
Ditch the emoji. Reserve that happy-faced emoticon for your personal exchanges, says this 2017 study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science. The findings showed that most people associate emojis with informal conversations and thus perceived those who used emoticons in work-related emails as "less competent." That doesn't mean that you should refrain from expressing a warm demeanor IRL; the study notes that digital smileys don't translate the same friendliness in virtual contexts.
Head over to Business Insider to read the full list of tricks that'll make you appear more competent, and then tell us if you've tried any of these tips.