R and I got to talking about being “on” and what professionalism means. A lot of the answers led to self-confidence and the way we present ourselves when walking into a room. Other than dressing in the color of the year, I got to thinking about the tools I collected to become more confident and, as student affairs folks put it, “on.”

What is “on”?

Some think it’s being fake, stiff, and “professional.” I don’t. I don’t think a person needs to be fake to be on, but there is a certain confidence that can be awakened to make your connections more electrifying. Here are some of my personal favorites:

Become a Diva.
It’s no secret there are health benefits to singing. Whenever I’m feeling physically or emotionally small, I go to the furtherest bathroom in the building where no one goes and diva out– hair flipping, vibrato action. I channel my inner Beyonce, Mariah, Whitney, and Celine and let the endorphins flow. Singing not your thing? Making yourself physically large (legs spread, hands reaching up) releases confidence-boosting chemicals. Just ask Amy Cuddy! In her TedTalk below she talks all about “faking it until you become it” when it comes to imposter syndrome.

Touch Yourself. Yes. In Public.
Not… like… that. Just like singing, there are studies on the health benefits to physical touch and it all comes down to comfort and relaxation. Physical touch can distract people from tension and anxiety. So go ahead: tug your earlobes when someone is pissing you off, rub your hands together to brush off nervousness, and even give yourself a brief back-of-the-neck massage when you aren’t feeling very comfortable. And there are more benefits to physical touch in general from loved ones. 

How Are You Sitting?
When you sit down in a room, ask yourself, “Is this how I would sit if no one was here?” Often being “on” can feel really uncomfortable– just look at how you’re sitting. Are you stiff? Are you making yourself small? Are you being a little too proper for the setting? And while it’s definitely important to be aware of what your body language can say to other people, there is an electricity that comes with simply being comfortable in your space. Prioritize it and see what happens.

Say My Name, Say My Name.
People love to hear their own name. If you don’t remember someone’s name or how to pronounce it, just ask for it again. It’s not rude. It’s called effort, especially in a world that  would rather say “Hey… you…” instead of just owning that you are human and want to make a better effort to learn someone’s name. It’s a common problem, and it’s also not the worst thing in the world. Still feel awkward? Try “You probably forgot my name, I’m (insert your name here)” and reach out for another hand shake. They’re bound to remind you theirs.

A Little Hospitality
Show the other people in the room a little hospitality, even if you’re 99% sure they will turn it down. See, when it comes to confidence for self-proclaimed “helpers” (aka student affairs professionals), confidence can seem like you’re taking too much space or not humbling yourself enough to be considered a helper. While I don’t completely agree with that (I love me some self-care), if you use that confidence for the benefit of others, everyone wins. People crave appreciation and thoughtfulness. Next time you’re in a room, offer to take someone’s trash with yours, ask if they want some coffee while you go yourself a cup, or ask if they want you to get them a kleenex after they sneeze. If you’re going to “own the room,” you gotta treat your guests well.