Want to build confidence? Rob Yeung is a psychologist and author of new book How to Stand Out: Proven Tactics for Getting Noticed – here he brings you the surprising ways you can get confident and get noticed Without sounding like a contestant on The Apprentice!
Last year I met a sales manager I’ll call Peggy. She came across as a little aloof, cool and confident. In writing my book How To Stand Out, I interviewed her about her demeanour and inner thoughts.
‘If you were to do a survey of my colleagues, they would probably say that I’m one of the most confident people in the business. They would describe me as really ambitious, confident, on it, quite matter of fact, very business-oriented, just like a bulldozer,’ she told me.
When I interviewed her, she was a rising star, having recruited her own team of ballsy sales people. She had beaten most of the targets she had ever been given. She was the youngest manager on the management team too.
take heart from The Confidence Con: we’re fooled into believing that people who appear confident from their external behaviour also feel confident internally.
But the truth was that Peggy suffered panic attacks. The first time she suffered panic attacks, she thought she was dying and actually called an ambulance.
On the surface, she came across as the most confident person in the world. What can we learn from such people about how to become more confident?
Don’t be fooled by The Confidence Con
People like Peggy appear confident on the outside, but often feel far from confident on the inside. So if you ever feel less than entirely confident, take heart from what I call The Confidence Con: the fact that we are fooled into believing that people who appear confident from their external behaviour also feel confident internally.
Research suggests that other people tend to be nearly 20 per cent less happy and confident than we think they are. So a good first step to feeling more confident is to understand – and not be conned by – The Confidence Con.
Understand that people can’t see inside your head
The positive side of The Confidence Con is that other people probably can’t see how nervous you may feel. Sure, when you’re nervous, you are massively aware of how quickly your heart is beating or how dry your mouth may feel. You have worries and doubts rushing around in your skull. But remember The Confidence Con: other people probably think that you are more confident from your surface behaviour than you feel deep-down inside.
Pump yourself up with power paragraphs
The next time you want to give yourself a boost – perhaps before a big presentation at work, a big party or a hot date – sit down to write about a time you felt powerful. Spend five minutes reminding yourself of a time you had influence or control over another person or persons. Perhaps you trained someone, taught someone, advised or even helped someone. It could have been at work or with friends or a family member.
The next time you want to give yourself a boost sit down to write about a time you felt powerful
That may sound like a strange thing to do, but research led by University of Cologne psychological scientist Joris Lammers has shown that people who use this technique come across as more confident. For example, Lammers found that job hunters who wrote about a time they felt more powerful came across as more competent during interviews and were more likely to get job offers.
So don’t chant mantras or rely on self-talk. Take five minutes to write about a time you felt powerful.
Consider that other people’s lives don’t revolve around you
Say you make a mistake. You say or do something foolish and it’s clear you messed up. The thing is: other people will probably forget far more quickly than you will. They have their own concerns and interests. Other people are the centre of their own universes. You are not the centre of their universes.
Remind yourself that you will almost certainly see your own mistakes and failures as a bigger deal than other people will. Other people are too busy worrying about their own mistakes and failures to be giving yours much long-term attention. Remember this oft-forgotten fact and you’ll bounce back more quickly.
Treat yourself with self-compassion
While we’re on the topic of making mistakes, imagine for a moment that a good friend tells you that she had had a disastrous day at work. Would you call her stupid? Would you point out her flaws and belittle her?
Hopefully, the answer to this questions is a resounding “No.” But the reality is that many people are far harsher to themselves than they would be to their close friends. So my advice to you is this: be more self-compassionate.
Kristin Neff, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin has spent years looking at the benefits of self-compassion. She defines self-compassion as treating yourself with kindness and recognising that you’re only human. That doesn’t mean that you should allow yourself to be sloppy or lazy. You should still look at what you’ve done in the past to learn from mistakes. But once you’ve learned, you need to move on. Talk to yourself as you might do your closest friend.
Talk to yourself with self-compassion and you may feel more optimistic in the long-term. Neff’s research also suggests that you may become less defensive and more open to learning too.
Exercise and look after your health
Sure, this is a message you’ve heard before. But just because it’s not a new message doesn’t mean this isn’t true. There’s a mass of evidence showing that people who engage in physical exercise tend to experience lower levels of anxiety and depression. People who are physically active also tend to report higher levels of well-being and confidence too.
Remember that life isn’t just about getting through your list of tasks for the day and repeating that over and over again. Consider that you’re in this for the long haul. To keep yourself strong – both physically and psychologically – make time to exercise and look after your health.
What’s your confidence trick? Tell us in the comments to win a copy of Rob’s book
Dr Rob Yeung is a psychologist at training and coaching firm Talentspace and author ofHow to Stand Out: Proven Tactics for Getting Noticed
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