One of the hallmarks of a good communicator is their apparent self-confidence. Indeed, self-confidence tends to be seen as one of the core attributes required to be effective at just about anything.
We’re not talking arrogance here – simply that underlying sense others get that we are comfortable in our own skin and able to handle whatever the day throws at us.
But what do people do that leads others to conclude that they are – or are not – self-confident? Based on research we carried out with senior business managers, here are the top eight things to do if you want others to conclude that you carry this magical, and often elusive, attribute...
1. Step out of your comfort zone
Take a few risks – but don’t be a daredevil. The key here is taking calculated risks and welcoming the new.
2. Take on board others’ ideas – but don’t give in too quickly or too often
If you change your mind easily you’ll be labelled as distinctly lacking in confidence. At the same time, beware of intransigence or you’re likely to be considered arrogant.
3. Cultivate good communication and interpersonal skills
Make an effort to speak to other people and show interest in them. No matter how confident you are, if you avoid eye-contact at the coffee machine, you’ll be branded as lacking self-confidence.
4. Never dominate the conversation or push your own viewpoint too strongly – especially if you’re a woman
And especially if you’re a woman talking to other women. You’re almost definitely going to be marked down as arrogant or pushy! And men don’t get off lightly here either. However, in contrast to women, they are seen to hide a lack of confidence behind an aggressive, domineering stance.
5. Leading on from this, if you’re a woman in mixed company and want to be seen as self-confident, let the men take the limelight
Women who try to compete with men in terms of their share in the conversation are unlikely to be seen in a positive light. Of course, the risk here is that women who display ‘appropriate’ self-confidence fade into the background, eclipsed by their more dominant male colleagues. There’s a dilemma... will you choose to be noticed and risk being seen as overbearing? Or would you prefer to be seen as self-confident and yet be in the shadow of your acceptably louder male colleagues?
6. Get good with people rather than task
Well, get good at both actually. Just don’t expect to be seen as self-confident purely because you’re good at what you do. Most managers thought that people who displayed self-confidence were only slightly better at, or no better at, their jobs than those who seemed to lack confidence. But they were much more skilled at relating to others. And if you’re less-than-skilled at the task, skill in building good relationships can hide a multitude of sins – at least for a while.
For your personal sense of self-confidence, you need to cultivate skills in both task and relationships. Because the resounding answer to ‘when do you feel self-confident?’ was ‘when I know I can do the job’.
7. If you’re not so sure you can do the job, it’s okay to feign self-confidence on occasion
‘Getting suited and booted’ was how one individual described it. Even the most senior and – from external appearances – confident managers relied on this from time to time.
8. Finally, if you want to maximise your effectiveness as a leader, you need to be self-confident, not just appear self-confident!
While most of the managers interviewed would accept occasional demonstrations of, or admissions to, lack of self-confidence from their leaders, all of them thought that it was an essential attribute for winning respect of peers and subordinates.
What do you think? Is self-confidence really such an important attribute for leaders? Let us know your opinion by leaving us a comment below.
[Image courtesy of suwatpo at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]
About the Author
Heather Campbell - Managing Director
Heather set up CommsMasters over 14 years ago – the mission is to develop conversation and communication strategies that busy leaders and business professionals can implement easily.
With over 25 years of leadership experience – combined with ongoing research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience and systems thinking – Heather has researched what really makes for great communication – and what gets in the way. Based on this, CommsMasters has developed a toolkit of practical, pragmatic techniques – Precision Engineered Communication. They’re proven to work in one-to-one, one-to-few and one-to-many interactions, and bring reliable, sustainable results.