Have you ever wondered why characters like Hannibal Lecter are so compelling? Almost despite ourselves, we’re drawn to them regardless of their deeply evil nature. But they have a charisma that’s born from an unshakeable sense of self-confidence. It allows them to feel free to be themselves with apologies to no one. Luckily, you can develop the confidence of a serial killer without sacrificing any of your moral standards.
Image remixed from Nejron Photo (Shutterstock).
Here are some of the things they do that you can learn from (without having to actually kill someone).
Find a Role Model
Joe Carroll, smooth-talking villain of the hit TV show The Following, developed a cult of admirers devoted to carrying on his “work”. Having obsessively studied Carroll’s actions, they planned their moves based on how he would act in a particular situation, including adopting his signature fascination with Edgar Allan Poe.
We all know someone who seems to have the confidence we yearn for. Pay attention to how they interact with people. The next time you’re in a social situation where you may be feeling a bit uncomfortable, ask yourself what he or she would do in your shoes. Learning from others is a smart way to gain from their experience and avoid your own trial-and-error efforts.
Look the Part
Remember the first time Clarice Starling met Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs? How he stood with perfect posture, arms relaxed comfortably at his side? He looked her in the eye and spoke in a low but assured tone. Even though Lecter was on the wrong side of those bars, there was no doubt which of them had the upper hand.
It’s difficult to feel confident when your shoulders are slumped and your gaze is cast down at the ground. Even Norman Bates’s mother told him to stand up straight. Projecting an assured physical presence demonstrates that you feel comfortable in your own skin, unlike the unfortunate Buffalo Bill.
“Fake It Till You Make It”
In true sociopathic fashion, the title character of Showtime’s Dexter was devoid of normal human emotions such as guilt and empathy. However, he was intelligent enough to understand that he needed to at least put up a front to avoid detection, going so far as to marry and father a child. Eventually he discovered that he had indeed come to have feelings of love for his family.
Dexter is a prime example of the concept that you can effect change from the outside in. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you smile, offer a firm handshake and converse naturally when you meet people, your brain will sync up with your actions and you’ll internalize the sense of confidence you’ve been “acting out.”
Recognise That You’re Not Alone
Freddy Krueger, the disfigured monster who so memorably haunted Elm Street, grew out of a miserable and tortured childhood. He gained his power by inhabiting the nightmares of other children, recognising that they were tortured by their own subconscious demons.
Fortunately, most people’s insecurities don’t reach that level. But it’s helpful to understand that nearly everyone is feeling nervous and uncertain about something. Accepting your feelings as part of being human can help build your confidence. You can even create your own internal bond with the person you’re talking to and set a goal to put them at ease with their insecurity.
Build on Your Successes
A classic characteristic of serial killers is collecting “souvenirs”. The Gorgomon who long eluded Dr Temperance “Bones” Brennan used the bones of his victims to create artistic sculptures, making something positive in his own twisted way.
You can accomplish the same thing in a much more civil way. Keep a list of all your achievements in social situations. Write it down if you like, or it can stay in your memory banks. Either way, it’s ready for review whenever you need to give yourself a pep talk. Use what’s worked in the past to continue building your confidence and self-esteem.
While we think of them as serial killers, they may prefer the term “misunderstood.” One thing that’s not hard to understand is that they can teach us all something about having self-confidence.
David Morin is a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of a multi-million dollar electronics company. Today, he is a business advisor and a Business Insider contributor. He runs SocialPro, a blog about hacks to improve your social life.
This post is part of our Evil Week series at Lifehacker, where we look at the dark side of getting things done. Knowing evil means knowing how to beat it, so you can use your sinister powers for good. Want more? Check out our evil week tag page.