First things first: Confidence is not bravado, or swagger, or an overt pretense of bravery. Confidence is not some bold or brash air of self-belief directed at others.
Confidence is quiet: It’s a natural expression of ability, expertise, and self-regard. Confidence is built over time.
Here are 10 ways you know if you have confidence:
1. You take a stand not because you think you are always right… but because you are not afraid to be wrong.
Cocky and conceited people tend to take a position and then proclaim, bluster, and totally disregard differing opinions or points of view. They know they’re right – and they want (actually they need) you to know it too.
Their behavior isn’t a sign of confidence, though; it’s the hallmark of an intellectual bully.
Truly confident people don’t mind being proven wrong. They feel finding out what is right is a lot more important than being right. And when they’re wrong, they’re secure enough to back down graciously.
Truly confident people often admit they’re wrong or don’t have all the answers; intellectual bullies never do.
2. You listen a whole lot more than you speak.
Bragging is a mask for insecurity. Truly confident people are quiet and unassuming. They already know what they think; they want to know what you think.
So they ask open-ended questions that give other people the freedom to be thoughtful and introspective: They ask what you do, how you do it, what you like about it, what you learned from it… and what they should do if they find themselves in a similar situation.
Truly confident people realize they know a lot, but they wish they knew more… and they know the only way to learn more is to listen more.
3. You duck the spotlight so it shines on others.
Perhaps it’s true they did the bulk of the work. Perhaps they really did overcome the major obstacles. Perhaps it’s true they turned a collection of disparate individuals into an incredibly high performance team.
Truly confident people don’t care – at least they don’t show it. (Inside they’re proud, as well they should be.) Truly confident people don’t need the glory; they know what they’ve achieved.
They don’t need the validation of others, because true validation comes from within.
So they stand back and celebrate their accomplishments through others. They stand back and let others shine – a confidence boost that helps those people become truly confident, too.
4. You freely ask for help.
Many people feel asking for help is a sign of weakness; implicit in the request is a lack of knowledge, skill, or experience.
Confident people are secure enough to admit a weakness. So they often ask others for help, not only because they are secure enough to admit they need help but also because they know that when they seek help they pay the person they ask a huge compliment.
Saying, “Can you help me?” shows tremendous respect for that individual’s expertise and judgment. Otherwise you wouldn’t ask.
5. You think, “Why not me?”
Many people feel they have to wait: To be promoted, to be hired, to be selected, to be chosen… like the old Hollywood cliché, to somehow be discovered.
Truly confident people know that access is almost universal. They can connect with almost anyone through social media. (Everyone you know knows someone you should know.) They know they can attract their own funding, create their own products, build their own relationships and networks, choose their own path – they can choose to follow whatever course they wish.
And very quietly, without calling attention to themselves, they go out and do it.
6. You respect others and don’t put down them down.
Generally speaking, the people who like to gossip, who like to speak badly of others, do so because they hope by comparison to make themselves look better.
The only comparison a truly confident person makes is to the person she was yesterday – and to the person she hopes to someday become.
7. You aren’t afraid to look silly…
Running around in your underwear is certainly taking it to extremes… but when you’re truly confident, you don’t mind occasionally being in a situation where you aren’t at your best.
(And oddly enough, people tend to respect you more when you do – not less.)
8. … And You own their mistakes.
Insecurity tends to breed artificiality; confidence breeds sincerity and honesty.
That’s why truly confident people admit their mistakes. They dine out on their screw-ups. They don’t mind serving as a cautionary tale. They don’t mind being a source of laughter – for others and for themselves.
When you’re truly confident, you don’t mind occasionally “looking bad.” You realize that that when you’re genuine and unpretentious, people don’t laugh at you.
They laugh with you.
9. You only seek approval from the people who really matter.
You say you have 10k Twitter followers? Swell. 20k Facebook friends? Cool. A professional and social network of hundreds or even thousands? That’s great.
But that also pales in comparison to earning the trust and respect of the few people in your life that truly matter.
When we earn their trust and respect, no matter where we go or what we try, we do it with true confidence – because we know the people who truly matter the most are truly behind us.
10. You are always looking for information that might prove them wrong, rather than only looking at information that proves them right.
Most people like to think what they have to say is important. If you or I make the effort to share thoughts, feelings, or knowledge, then we want to believe the intended recipient is listening. But honestly, many people are too distracted to really take it all in when someone else is doing the talking. What’s worse is that so many just watch mouths move, waiting for the chance to chime in.
Great leaders understand the value of active listening and get the most benefit from what others have to share. They understand that if you want to be heard and understood, the first step is learning how to listen yourself. The following are actions shared by those who truly know how to listen. Integrate them into your conversational behavior and you might be surprised what you learn.
1. Be present.
Being “in the moment” is not just for yoga or Grateful Dead concerts. If you are going to take in what someone is saying, you have to truly focus your mental awareness on the person. Push distractions aside. Give a person the gift of your attention. Put down the smartphone, turn off your computer screen, put down the book or magazine, and look at him or her with a neutral or pleasant expression. Most people are so accustomed to having half of someone else’s focus at any given moment that this gesture alone will make them feel important and it will allow you to actually hear what they are saying. Try to listen.
2. Turn down the inner voice.
Internal analysis of any conversation is unavoidable and necessary, but often it’s at the expense of objectivity. That voice can actually take over in your brain to the point at which you are no longer listening to the person talking and instead simply listening to the diatribe in your head. There is plenty of time after a conversation to assess the value of what you heard, but first you have to hear it. One technique for quieting the inner voice is simple note taking. Writing down even key words or short phrases will force you to absorb the information coming in. Then you can process it on your own outside the presence of the speaker. As an added benefit, you’ll have a more accurate representation of what was actually said for later discussion.
3. Hold up a mirror.
This is a technique many psychologists and counselors recommend to help alleviate conflict. When the opportunity arises, speak up and describe for the person what you have just heard him or her say. It is OK to rephrase in your own words. Be sure to end with a request for confirmation: “So what you’re most concerned about is that the new hires lack training. Is that accurate?” The speaker then knows you are paying attention and fully engaged.
4. Ask for clarification.
During a conversation, hunt for areas of interest where you might further inquire. Without derailing his or her train of thought, ask the speaker to expand and clarify: “What do you mean by ‘interesting?'” or “Why do you think that is so important?” The speaker will appreciate the interaction, and you will gain better understanding of the person’s perspective as well as your own perception of the information.
5. Establish follow-up.
At the end of any conversation, discuss and determine if there are action steps required. This check-in will alert speakers to your actual concern for what they said, and help them assess their own relevancy to your needs. Express appreciation for their sharing, and let them know what you found to be valuable from the conversation. Making them feel heard increases the odds they’ll truly listen to you when you have something to say you believe is important.
Think about a gold wedding band. There are three distinct phases of that gold band. Phase 1 is the beginning of life for band, the mining and manufacturing of the band. Phase 2 is the longest period for the band, the time it is worn. And Phase 3 is when the band is melted down and changed to something else.
Gold is a relatively soft metal. So, during Phase 2 of the wedding band it may be nicked, dented, and bent fairly easily. But basic shape says the same. However, Phase 1 and Phase 3 takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of energy to mine and manufacture gold. And when it is time to reshape the gold it also takes a lot of energy.
So to with people. Small changes are relatively easy. But, big changes are hard and take a lot of energy. And, as with the gold wedding band, since changes can be totally destructive of the previous phase – changing the wedding band into earrings – we have to clearly see the advantages of the change before we even begin to think about expending the effort.
Now think about your own life and the experiences that made you what you are today. Are there any that changed your life. For me it was enlisting in the Army during the Viet Nam war.
The kind of experiences that changes people, generally:
- Challenges them to change how they think, act, or perform in new ways.
- Took significant energy and attention.
- Involved struggle and failure to get to the other side.
Change that has the most profound effect on individuals rarely comes easily.
Yet all too frequently, in a well-meaning effort to facilitate and enable change, we minimize the efforts. We chunk it down into digestible and doable bites. We strategize how to set people up for early wins and success each step of the way. We bake out the pain and struggle, intervening to remove the pressure and possible disappointment when the experience becomes too hard. What do they say, “No Pain, No Gain.”
I call this the “There is a Pill for that” world view. We want to find solutions that are like taking a pill. Want to loose weight? Take a pill! Want to control your modes? Take a Pill? Want to be more attentive? Take a Pill?
My mother-in-law says aging is not for wimps. Well, change is not for wimps either.
Easy instruction. Comfortable content. A leisurely pace. Fail-proof activities. They all lead to small growth steps. But genuinely difficult, challenging, mind-stretching (even sometimes frustrating) experiences generate great leaps and disproportionate forward momentum.
Challenge, struggle, failure and perseverance contribute to producing the grit and resilience required to welcome and mine these very building blocks for greater development.
But how can we — as individuals and parents — find the sweet spot and introduce that just right level of challenge into our lives and the lives of our children that inspires full engagement, optimal utilization of mental and other resources, and huge learning leaps forward? How do we push right up to — but not beyond — the unknown and outer limits of capacity? How do we enable a good, deep stretch but no breaks? How do we foster comfort with the uncomfortable?
Two key principles can help individuals embrace challenge as a vehicle for change and help parents support their families in doing so.
- Set audacious, personally relevant and meaningful goals. People are willing to do incredible things and endure tremendous discomfort when they know that these acts are in service of something significant. Connecting the dots between challenging conditions and what the anxiety (and even pain) may yield creates commitment to persevere.
- Cultivate mindfulness. Discomfort, anxiety and failure (or fear of it) can easily cause the mind to develop a mind of its own. When things get tough, it’s easy to begin down the ‘worst case scenario’ path, imagining outcomes that may or may not ever come to pass. As a result, it’s important to quickly interrupt those hijacked negative thoughts. Replace them with deliberate attention to what’s being learned and how it will help.
Beyond thoughts, it’s critical to also attend to language. How we label events and feelings frames our reality. Research suggests that when family members simply express their natural jitters as “excitement” rather than “‘nervousness,” their personal comfort and quality of the speech improve.
Apply the same principle to challenging change conditions.
- It’s not “impossible”; it’s a “stretch.”
- You’re not “overwhelmed”; you’re “enlivened.”
- It’s not “kicking your butt”; it’s “kicking you into gear.”
What begins as word play can quickly be absorbed by the mind, changing how you think and feel about the experience.
When it comes to change, understand that it will be “hard.” But, it is the “hard” that makes successful change rewarding.