How Acting 'As If' Expands Your Choices And Releases Your Powers

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How Acting 'As If' Expands Your Choices And Releases Your Powers

I believe you have most of the tools, skills, and experience for using this article to expand your powers for a personal and professional life with greater meaning and success.

By acting "as if," you’ll feel additional ease and confidence in current and new situations and can strengthen self-presentation.

You’ll also increase the enjoyment of challenging situations as you free yourself to be yourself. When you act as if you can meet your goals, you widen opportunities and deepen confidence.

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Whether or not your mood or state of mind is apparent to others, even your subtle discomfort can permeate what you think and do in ways that detract from your self-interest.

Instead, adapt the suggestions here for returning yourself to calm and comfortable self-presentation that supports your goals and promotes mutually beneficial results.

A story that shows how "as if" works.

Here’s a story about how I learned the value of acting "as if" at 22 in an interview to become a U.S. diplomat.

Three middle-aged, super-serious men were plying me with questions such as, "Which state grows the most corn?"

The most sympathetic interviewer focused on labor relations, my college major. Although he may have thought he was helping me, I wasn’t doing too well on his questions, either.

Then the worst one hit: a question on offensive weapons. Though I could target tins cans well with a .22 rifle based on my father’s early guidance, I knew nothing about that subject.

I felt my chin start to quiver and my eyes tear. I remember saying to myself, "You’re not going to cry! That would really blow it. Schimel, straighten up!"

So I sat tall in the chair, looked at each man in the eyes, and said, "I’m afraid I don’t know anything about this subject. Can we move to the next question?"

Well, in spite of what I sensed was my less-than-stellar performance, I passed the interview.

Later, I had a chance to speak to the one seemingly sympathetic interviewer. He said, "Do you know why you got in? Not because of your knowledge, but because of how you handled what you didn’t know."

To this day, I’m convinced that the combination of my self-talk and change in body language helped me shift the outcome.

I acted as if I were confident and sent a message to the interviewers and myself that I could handle a difficult situation with integrity and aplomb.

As I sat tall, maintained good eye contact and admitted my ignorance in a dignified way instead of faking an answer, I acted as if I were confident. There was no outward show of how shaken and inadequate I felt.

By changing my posture and taking the lead in the discussion, my performance actually improved. By acting more effectively, I felt more effective.

With each action, I did a little better.

By being true to myself and honest about what I did not know, I became ready to move forward with some grace and whatever humor that seemed appropriate.

I also released myself from focusing on fears and expectations about what I did wrong.

To paraphrase French Nobel Prize winner, author, and playwright Andre Gide, the individual never asserts herself more than when she forgets herself.

What can you do to act "as if"?

In a new or challenging situation especially, attend to your physical presentation.

Focusing on improving your body language, voice tone, and speaking rhythms can take your mind off what disquiets you.

For example:

  • Maintain eye contact, without staring.
  • Ensure that your posture sends the appropriate message. Should it be relaxed or more formal? In any event, avoid rigidity or slumping.
  • Be alert to any nervous mannerisms or other movements that distract from the message you want to send. What do your legs, arms, shoulders, face, and hands say?

Your voice can express range and depth, as well as energy. So, speed up and slow down what you are saying for emphasis and variety.

  • Experiment with varying speech rhythms.
  • Choose the pitch of your voice, lowering it to be more authoritative without sounding stuffy.
  • Record your voice to experiment with preferred sounds and choices.

When I speak from my diaphragm instead of my throat, my voice lowers and sounds more confident. What happens when you do that?

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How can you relate even better to others?

Perhaps put your feelings in neutral about the person, especially if your not sure about them. Then, you could be freed to give them the benefit of the doubt by acting interested.

Use nonverbal messages from a smile to warm tone of voice. Your supportive vibes could stimulate comfort at the start.

So, imagine how you can put others at ease. To start, let go of focusing on your own concerns and needs.  

Here are some questions to ask yourself to show more attention to another person:

  • What do the other person’s body language and tone of voice tell you about them and your relationship at that moment?
  • What do you think their needs are in the situation?
  • How can you serve their interests without sacrificing your own?

As you do this, you will not only take your mind off yourself, but contribute to better rapport and improved outcomes.

Here are some other things you can offer:

  • Sincere smiles and other positive body language, as the occasion warrants
  • Light-hearted, relevant comments that don’t disrupt the conversational flow
  • Respectful attention supported by appropriate expressions of empathy or sympathy

When you speak:

  • Give honest responses
  • Make practical, viable suggestions
  • Offer relevant information

Just ensure that you are reading others accurately instead of projecting your own perceptions. That includes checking out your assumptions and how they affect your actions.

More important, imagine how can you take the initiative instead of just reacting to the situation or other person? How will you influence the outcome with an idea, data, or mood?

That includes choosing effective self-presentation.

Whatever you decide to do, be true to your own values. Then when you act "as if," your behavior will be authentic, even if you seem more confident than you actually feel at any moment.

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Ruth Schimel, PhD, is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. Obtain the bonus first chapter of the upcoming, Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future on her website, where you’ll also find your invitation for a free consultation.