Self-confidence is a skill that most people covet but very few can master. Employers are drawn to confident personalities in job interviews, women flock to men who can speak with them in a way that shows they are sure of themselves and people will vote for politicians who can speak to the public in a manner that demonstrates certainty.
People who are confident tend to show behaviors that elicit trust in the people they interact with. A great example of this would be an orthopedic surgeon speaking with his patient about the total knee replacement that he is going to do on him.
If the surgeon shows confident body language (standing/ sitting up straight, maintaining eye contact, hands to the side) and is very clear in how he speaks and can project his voice well when speaking with the patient, some of the patient’s fears about the procedure as well as the rehabilitation afterwards are alleviated.
Take this same surgeon who walks in with his body slouched forward, looks at the ground, cannot make eye contact and stammers as he tries to assure the patient that he is qualified for the job. It is very likely the patient will doubt this physician’s ability.
He may think that it would be better if he got his knee replacement done by a surgeon who is more confident in himself even though he may be less skilled or experienced than the unconfident doctor.
He may even decide to not go through with the procedure altogether and tolerate the pain and limitations of arthritis to avoid surgery.
In that case, the doctor is doing the patient a disservice by lacking confidence, he literally scared him out of going through with a surgery that could drastically improve his quality of life.
The orthopedic surgeon example is just one of many situations that you could probably think of when confidence is important. Someone’s confidence level can be the deciding factor as to whether a sale is made, a job is offered or if an election is won in a candidate’s favor.
People who are confident act as though what they are saying and doing is true and right and as such act that way.
Confidence is often a factor in someone’s skill level as well. Take the orthopedic physician doctor again as an example. If the good doctor has confidence in his abilities, he is more likely to be decisive during key moments of the operation, which will determine if the operation goes well or not.
Better decisiveness means there is less room for error to occur and the knee replacement is a success. If the doctor is unconfident, he may dither during the surgery which may create an opportunity for mistakes to sneak into the operation and there is a high likelihood the surgery will be unsuccessful.
Since confidence is so important not just in the operating room but also in real life, how do we go about improving our confidence if we are lacking in it?
Practice your skills:
To gain confidence sometimes you must show yourself that you can complete a certain task, which is basically the definition of confidence. If you practice and show yourself that you can become good at an activity then your confidence will increase and thus improve your performance of that task during high-pressure moments.
Practice Confident Body Language:
Psychologist Amy Cuddy in this TED Talk, mentions using body language to adjust your mindset to confidence. She says people who are powerful and confident use open body language such as sitting or standing up straight and they take up more space.
She says this is true throughout the animal kingdom and she believes that if you are unconfident it is possible to “fake it til you make it”. To prove this Cuddy had a group of people do high power poses (opened up) and another group do low power poses (closed in).
They then took a saliva sample, had them gamble and then take another saliva sample. What they found was that in the people with high power poses they found higher concentrations of hormones associated with confidence such as testosterone. They also found that people with the high power poses were more amenable to taking risks.
This was already found in a previous study with people who have high power roles such as CEO’s, politicians etc. but Cuddy’s study shows that people who are not in these positions of power can also adopt the high-power hormones as well through the use of open “power poses”.
She states that our body language influences how we think and feel about ourselves. To apply this principle Cuddy suggests practicing confident body language, especially before something like a job interview.
What Cuddy suggests you do is practice open and powerful body language in the mirror for two minutes at a time. This could be done before a big job interview, a first date or meeting your fiancée’s parents for the first time. By doing this, you are wiring your brain to be more confident which will help you handle high risk or high-stress situations.
Push Past Your Comfort Zones:
People who lack confidence tend to also be complacent in remaining within their own comfort zones. They always take the same route to work, they rarely try to branch out to form relationships with other people and they do not take risks such as making a big move or asking for a promotion.
The best way to move past your comfort zone is to push past it. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, go for it. If something scares you, like approaching that cute girl at the local coffee shop, do it. Live life like it’s your last day ever and you will take daily actions that push your comfort zone. Yes, it’s risky, but the rewards far outweigh the risks.
Learn how to lead:
Overseeing a project at work or sticking your neck out to come up with a suggestion for your next bros’ night out is an example of exercising your leadership muscles. Yes, you may fail at leading that project to success, but at least you tried, took initiative and learned something out of it.
Your buddies may not like that bar you suggested but hey at least you tried and now you know not to take them there next time. We all have opportunities to be leaders in our lives, we need to seize the opportunities to take charge whenever they occur.
Set Your Boundaries and Enforce Them:
If you’re like most people, there are certain situations and behaviors that are acceptable and unacceptable to you. For instance, you wouldn’t want a friend of yours to lie to you or steal from you so if he or she were to do that, you either leave them or warn them to never do it again. If they did it again you would leave for good. This is an example of setting a boundary and enforcing it and doing this is important if you want to be confident with yourself.
If you allow someone to walk all over you and let people disrespect you, you are sending a message to people that you do not feel as though you are worth much. There are evil and malicious people who will take advantage of someone who feels this way and many people will test your boundaries to see how much they can get away with.
If you ever feel disrespected or if someone does something to you that is intolerable, it is up to you to stand up for yourself and tell the person to respect your boundaries. Do not worry about losing this person because if they can’t respect you, they are not worth your time anyway and they may even be toxic.
So how to go about this: when enforcing your boundaries, it is important to do so in a way that is kind and respectful yet firm. An example would be saying to your significant other: “hey I love our dates and I have a blast going out with you but you being late all the time is really starting to wear on me. I feel disrespected by it and I would appreciate it if you were on time. I always have a blast with you on our dates and being late only takes time away from those great dates”.
Another great example would be if you are in an argument with someone and they start firing insults at you, you tell them that you want to resolve the issue but you don’t appreciate being spoken to like that and you tell them you’re going to walk away until they’re ready to speak to you civilly.
By enforcing your boundaries and letting a person know that they have crossed your boundaries, you are helping that person know what is acceptable and unacceptable to you and you also communicate to them that you value yourself. When you value yourself, you will always get more respect from people than if you don’t.