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Planning Retirement Online

How to get the confidence factor
November 2004

Meribeth DaymeHelen Franks interviews author Meribeth Bunch Dayme

You know those telly ads of a female with swinging hair, glossy lips and knowing smile, surrounded by lesser mortals who clamour for her secret? Well, it’s not a shampoo, or a new lipstick or even a good dentist that she’s selling. What she’s really got is Confidence.

You will notice that the Girl with Confidence rarely says very much about her product. As Meribeth Bunch Dayme, author of Creating Confidence , points out, ‘It has been proven scientifically that 55% of communication is through body language, 38% is voice - tone and pitch - which leaves 7% for words.’


Use your hands

Meribeth Bunch Dayme teaches communication and presentation skills to people in business and to performing artists. But her ideas are for anyone. She says we all spend far too much time preparing words before we go for an interview or an audition or a business meeting, thus sorely neglecting our hands.

Hands, it seems can advance our case or hold us back. Bunch, who hails from the US, says that the Brits particularly underuse their hands. ‘In the UK waving hands about is discouraged. I spend a lot of time going around changing that.’

She reckons that in the safety of our own homes we do in fact gesture appropriately. ‘You sit down and exclaim, ‘I’ve had a hell of a day’ - and you use your hands to emphasise it.’
Do we? Well, maybe not always if you are a Brit, she concedes. The answer, apparently, is to practice at home.

Copy your partner

The other big thing about body language we should know about is that when sitting comfortably and conversing at ease, we automatically copy the pose of the person we are talking to. We can check up on ourselves and try copying the way the other person is sitting or standing to see if that loosens things up a bit.

Not convinced? Try watching people at a dining table, first when they sit down and later when they are absorbed in conversation. You will, says Meribeth, see a dramatic difference.
People-watching is of course her stock in trade. ‘I find that individuals constantly give away their personal power to people they think are more important or superior in some way. You see it in their posture. I’ve watched people shrink. It’s hard to look confident if you’re slouched. You don’t fill your physical space. When you stand straight you get a different physical sense of yourself. ‘

Think equal but different, is her message. ‘There was a woman on one of my courses who couldn’t say hello to her director. She said, he’s superior to me. I said, he’s not superior to you, he has a different role. We have to look at ourselves as each having our own role. In that case, the head of the company could not have made money without his staff. He needed her skills, just as she needed his.’

Get rid of your self-critic

Now we come to that tiny 7% input - words. We’re all burdened with this self-critic who is horribly into aughts and shoulds, rights and musts, sabotaging our aspirations and intentions with a lot of useless internal whisperings.
‘In many situations, people’s self critic is talking instead of them. They say I can’t do this, I can’t do that, and often it’s the self critic saying don’t do it. The self critic interferes with decisions we make, and how we present ourselves. It stops spontaneity, intuition and creativity.’

Meribeth does this unnerving exercise with her clients: ‘I get them speaking and I stand behind them and become their ‘out loud’ self critic. I say things like: this can’t be right, or I don’t know what I’m saying this for, or oh there’s something wrong with my jacket. Then they see how much energy is taken away from them.’

Not surprisingly, she says they are ‘completely paralysed’.
But it does get the message home. ‘People realise they worry more about how much they’re saying than concentrating on what they’re saying.’

Surely some of this is due to shyness? ‘No. A shy person you can make bigger. You can’t make them an extrovert, but shyness is a personality type and is probably not something brought on by the self critic’.

Perhaps the most useful tool in the kit is based on five little words: I WANT TO BE HERE. ‘They make me feel that I am truly present. If I start thinking that I’d rather be at home or somewhere else, then I simply wouldn’t be fully here.’

The full presence, then, is a kind of banishing act:

1. Get rid of twitching and use your hands expressively.
2. Watch your body language and match for maximum comfort.
3. Out with the slouching. Think equal but different.
4. Get rid of that self critic.
5. Remember the mantra: I want to be here.

Creating Confidence by Meribeth Bunch Dayme is available online as an ebook.



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