In my first article in the GirlToGreat series, I tackled what I call the root of all evil—insecurity, and its many disguises. But what about its opposite—confidence? Just about everyone wants to feel and come across to others as more confident, yet many find this state elusive. That's because some of the most powerful confidence cues are actually quite subtle and normally not associated with confidence at all.
The craving for confidence comes up in so many of my conversations with professional women, but more often than not, they tack on a caveat. I hear “I wish I were more confident…” and then, “…oh, but not arrogant!” or “…but not in an obnoxious way.”
Although arrogance abounds in our society, there really is no such thing as being obnoxiously confident. Confidence is defined as “A feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities,” and “Full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person.” Confidence then, is grounded in trust, assurance and belief. Nothing obnoxious about that!
GIRL TO GREAT MANDATES
The following are three surefire ways to convey confidence, methods that will also make you feel more confident as you practice them.
- Have a sense of humor – I’m not talking about loud guffaws, blue jokes and tone-deaf timing. It’s called a “sense” of humor for a reason; it requires sensitivity. One often-overlooked aspect of humor is that it hinges on the intention to seek out and find levity in situations and to hear and respond to others’ attempts at being light-hearted and funny. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed people completely skipping over humorous exchanges or even overtly squelching them. People who lack confidence fear the spontaneity and creativity that humor requires and the possibility that conversations may veer from their carefully planned narratives. That’s why being light-hearted and responsive to others’ humor is such a powerful confidence cue, particularly coming from women. The notion that women aren't funny has been a recurring and polarizing theme in the comedy world for a while and, although I’ve had the great fortune of meeting quite a few truly hilarious women over the years, I find that most women do tend to shy away from using humor. That’s a shame, because humor shows that a person can think beyond themselves, is not threatened by breaks in the action, can think on her feet, and pick up on subtle nuances. In other words, humor says, “I trust myself in all situations.” Bonus points for the bonds it quickly builds with others. Powerful stuff!
- Ask questions – You would think that, with all of the wisdom available about the power of asking questions, people would be firing them off right and left. Based on my anecdotal evidence gathered from plane rides, business conversations and while waiting in line, the opposite is true; the art of inquiry is dying out. That's actually great news because it means you will easily stand out when you put it into practice. Many people think asking questions is a perfunctory courtesy or something that should be reserved for interviews. However, much like humor, asking great questions demonstrates creativity, a lack of self-consciousness, receptivity, and the ability and intention to respond to yet-unknown ideas. In short, great questions are your confidence-conveying machine.
- Give compliments freely – Have you ever known someone who would rather eat nails that throw out a compliment? Little do these poor souls know that they are rocking a major sign of insecurity. They live in a world where kudos given to others will deduct imaginary points from their self-worth account. Clearly they are oblivious to the amazing power of offering a sincere pat on the back. However, while compliments work wonders, I’ll issue an alert to the women who insist on adding a self-effacing trailer to their compliments (“I love your hair! … I wish mine wasn’t so awful”). These caveats have the (unintended?) effect of making the compliment all about you. Giving unqualified compliments on everything from clothing choices to jobs well done, on the other hand, communicates that your cup is overflowing, that you have something to give and then some, and that you know what you bring to the table and delight in elevating others. The embodiment of confidence!
Practice these stealthy, repeatable confidence conveyors often enough, and you’ll soon find others drawn into your sphere, and your enjoyment of everyday situations and encounters will escalate by the day.
Isn’t that great?