Growing up I cannot remember a time when I did not feel scared. Take a severe speech impediment and combine it with having to move every two years for my dad´s job and I had no idea where my comfort zone lied.
Like a lot of kids growing up lacking self-confidence, my goal each day was to hide. With each new school I would search out the strongest and most confident kids in class and strategically place myself behind them in an attempt to feel protected and mask my own insecurities.
It took me years to realise that this defense mechanism, which was done out of pure instinct, was probably the smartest decision I have ever unknowingly ever made. After all, is there a better place for someone lacking self-esteem to be, than in the shadows of the strong?
Each day I would observe not only how my confident friends talked, but how they moved, and most importantly, how good they made other people feel and in time, by showing me what confidence looked like, they taught me what confidence felt like, which is perhaps the greatest gift a friend can give.
Below are the ten ways in which they did it.
1. GO FIRST:
Legendary interviewer and Esquire Columnist, Cal Fussman, attributes his ability to travel the world on shoe-string budget for a decade to asking people one question: “How do you make your goulash?” This may sound like an odd place to start, but imagine asking a Hungarian grandmother this very questions and envision where the conversation takes you. When confident people notice a face who looks like they have a story to tell, they smile, stick out their hand and go first.
2. FOLLOW-UP ON PAST CONVERSATIONS:
How do you feel a few days after meeting with someone and a few days later you receive an email with a few ideas in regards to a problem you mentioned you were facing, or simply a restaurant recommendation in a town you said you would soon be visiting? Confident people listen attentively, recognise what is important and they check in on the progress of the people in their lives, because they truly care about their success and happiness.
3. CONNECT PEOPLE:
Confident people know their goals and they do what they can do help others to achieve theirs. One way they do this is by intuitively seeking out how they can add value to their circle and extending it every chance they get. A simple, “You have to meet Liam, he was the guy I was telling you about earlier who is great at marketing”, goes a long way and is so much more powerful than, “Oh, this is my colleague Liam.”
4. WITHHOLD JUDGEMENT:
A few months ago I blew a first impression with a man that I admired and to my surprise a few months later he began leaving me subtle hints that I was on the right track. Recently I asked him why he stuck with me and he replied: “My mentor taught me that we all have to get clear in three areas in life: clarity of vision, certainty of action and values, the last being the most important. I could see that you were unclear about the first two, but I could tell that we had shared values, and when someone has similar values they are worth giving a 10th, 100th or even 1000th chance.”
Of course confident people make shallow and hurried assessments, the difference is that they do not dismiss an idea or a person immediately after making one.
5. CHANGE THIER MIND:
Confident people know what they want and they have the gumption to keep fighting even when times get tough, but plenty of people do that, what separates the truly confident from the overconfident is that they are also open to varying opinions and have the wherewithal to act when presented with a better alternative. For confident people it is not about who is right and who is wrong, it is about creating the best possible outcome. If there is a better option, confident people take it, and thank the person for their advice and pay the favor forward.
6. LET THINGS PLAY OUT:
Confident people do what they can, but they also recognise the things that they cannot control, and they have an almost stoic resolve to let things run their course after they have done everything in their power.
Weigh the options, seek out advice from people you respect from both sides of the aisle, make a decision, let things play out and then adjust accordingly. Like most advice this is easy to say and hard to do, but confident people do not shy away just because something is hard.
7. DO NOT PRESS THIER OWN AGENDA:
The truly confident always try to learn about the perspective, thoughts and feelings of the people around them. They possess an “I can and I will learn from everyone” attitude and believe that everyone has something to bring to the table. Next time you find yourself in the presence of someone who you feel is confident, take note of who asks the best questions and also who listens more than they speak. They know their own agenda, they want to learn about yours.
8. THEY GIVE THEIR NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION THE ATTENTION IT DESERVES:
When spending time with confident people, you’ll not only see that they’re being attentive, you’ll feel it — in the way they position their bodies and make eye contact. They lean in when they sense something means a great deal to you and touch you when they feel a connection. Researchers have found that this congruence — between what’s said out loud and what’s communicated without words — is crucial for establishing trust. A very subtle touch, like a tap on the shoulder, can go a long way in reinforcing verbal support.
9. DO NOT SEEK APPROVAL FROM OTHERS:
We all want approval from our peers, and attention feeds the human appetite on some level, but the truly confident “just want to play the game well and go home” (shout out: Kareem Abdul Jabbar).
I recently overheard someone say “Surely, you heard about what I did”. Needless to say, the crowd thinned out pretty quickly after that one. Confident people do not need this reinforcement and deflect most attention onto someone else.
10. CELEBRATE OTHER PEOPLE’S VICTORIES:
If you know what you want and are on the path to achieving it, what is stoping you from truly being happy for someone who has fought hard to achieve one of their goals? Confident people take real pleasure in seeing other people succeed and recognize the importance of supporting others. They remember how they, too, are empowered by others at key times in their lives. After all, being truly happy for other people has this funny way of adding to your own happiness.
Confidence may come in all shapes and sizes, but the underlying characteristic of any confident person is that they take care of their own and give them the power to one day take care of others. My friends taught me that.