Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Book Excerpt: How do you start building confidence?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Stop comparing yourself to others. We all evaluate ourselves in relation to others. The problem is you have no idea what is going on for another person. You can’t know why they do what they do, what motivates their behavior. In fact, someone who looks “confident” may just be another shy person covering up his own insecurities and doubts. Instead of focusing on others, shift your attention back to yourself. The only reasonable comparison to make is between your past and your present performance. Bring your attention to your goals and to the actions you need to take to achieve them.

2. Set Self Confidence Goals. Although developing self confidence is a very abstract goal and self confidence itself is impossible to quantify, you can focus on the tangible and concrete actions that result in confidence. Choose one area, break it down into small, manageable steps or actions with concrete results. Make them measurable, like, “Strike up a conversation with 1 stranger per day” “Call 3 headhunters” or “Attend 2 events per month.” Write down your goals and post them somewhere visible, like the bathroom mirror or on a Post-it on your computer. Review them every morning, or at least every week. Over time, with persistence, a little here ... a little there, the next thing you know, you’re a shy person who starts conversations.

3. Always take time to prepare. Don’t waste time talking yourself into “feeling” confident. Be more productive in your preparation. The better you know your stuff, the more confident you will feel. No matter what the event or activity, make sure you set aside time to practice or to think through all the possible scenarios and how you would respond to them. Again, it’s a question of directing your attention away from the anxiety and toward the actions needed.

4. Visualize another reality. Before a stressful event, take a few minutes to create a mental picture for yourself. Instead of imagining a staff meeting as a place where you will be put on the spit and grilled, imagine it as a circle of colleagues who are all there to help you. Instead of picturing the company holiday party as a mob scene where everyone will already be in their cliques and you’ll be alone in the corner, think about it as a series of one-on-one conversations over a glass of your favorite red wine.

5. Ask for honest feedback. It might seem counter-intuitive to advise someone who is self conscious to submit themselves to the scrutiny of others, but you may be surprised by what you find out. It’s likely that your perspective on yourself isn’t accurate, and it’s definitely not complete. The only way to discover that is by submitting yourself or your work to others. Solicit honest feedback from someone you trust. Sometimes all you have to do is ask. This isn’t to say that what others say about you is the truth. But your own opinion is a very narrow slice of the pie. You need more information, more perspectives to weigh.

6. Think Small. It’s unrealistic to imagine that you will suddenly transform yourself into a gregarious networker. But you can get in the habit of doing tiny confident behaviors, of stretching yourself and expanding your comfort zone systematically, each time a bit further. For example, when you meet someone for the first time, greet him or her with a firm handshake, a smile, and look directly into their eyes for a moment longer than may be comfortable to you. Or, when talking on the phone, smile. The person on the other end can hear it and will respond to the energy in your voice. If you want an enthusiastic response to your ideas, bring that enthusiasm into your voice.

7. Give yourself many options. One of the reasons we get so nervous about one conversation, one interview, one prospect, is because we don’t have many eggs in our basket, so every egg counts for a lot. If you give yourself lots of options, lots of opportunities to practice saying the things that need to be said, not only will it get easier but each one won’t carry as much weight. You’ll be able to afford a couple unsuccessful conversations because you know there will be more chances to learn those lessons.

These are just a few. Certainly you have a few tips. Please contribute them.

Excerpted from Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive (Career Press, 2006). Order your copy here.


Blogger Linda M.R. Yaw said...

When I'm doing public speaking I try to think of it as helping some friends understand the topic I'm speaking about. By reframing the audience to friends and the "speech" to "helping" I feel more comfortable.

8:31 PM  

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