Because of why I do for my main business, I spend a lot of my time with other people. Whether pitching for business, dealing with key clients or speaking at training events and conferences, one thing that I do a lot is stand up and talk with people.
Am very good at it too, but that’s not the point of this post. One of the most common observations made is how confident I am. In fact, some people assume the only reason am good at speaking, or pitching, is because am “so confident”. Often, when I am working with a client to help them be a better public speaker, the comment will come back “it’s alright for you, you’re confident”.
Well they’re right, I certainly am very confident … NOW. But I wasn’t always. When I was 15 I was really shy… painfully almost. And this post is about how I changed that to be more confident, most of the time. The fact is, I use techniques, and a thought process, to be confident. And since so many people seem to want to be more confident, I thought you might too. So let me tell you a few things that might help you, if more confidence is your goal.
First though, let’s be clear about a couple of things. There is good confidence, and then there is irritating confidence… annoying, loud, irritating confidence. You want to be good confident. Good confidence is attractive, compelling, assuring. It makes people want to agree with you, follow you, be influenced by you. It helps you put your point of view across and increases the chance that you get what you want out of life. But the irritating sort, the loud brash sort – well no one likes that. Think what teenagers are like when they are all shouting at each other (with apologies if you’re a teenager who shouts at your friends!) Its drunken oafs bellowing to each other in a bar, it’s that particular type of person who crashes into your headspace because they are not only so loud, but also so unaware that other people don’t want to listen to their conversation or phone call.
IN short, bad confidence forces views and thoughts on others, it’s loud, obnoxious and doesn’t even consider others. This is NOT what am talking about. This is horrible and to be avoided!
But good confidence – that’s a completely different thing isn’t it. We all know that person who is comfortable talking to a stranger, who can be the center of attention – when the time calls for it – but knows when to step back down again. The person, who unlike the more reserved person, takes the moment to ask for that phone number, or to say that nice thing to a stranger, the person who doesn’t miss some of life great chances because they are too reserved.
If that makes sense, the next question is
Why do you want to be confident?
I know – you’re thinking this is supposed to be a post about how to be confident, so why don’t I just tell you … but wait… I’m trying to tell you. You see most of us are not just confident or not, we are on a scale. Think about these activities.
Standing in front of 500 people to speak for half an hour, without notes.
Asking an attractive person to have a drink with you.
Going to a party when you know no one.
Going to a restaurant by yourself and when they say “How many people” having to reply “just me”.
Performing as a standup comedian, in a professional venue, with none of your friends watching.
Making a “how-to” video and selling it to clients, where you have to show them the video in order to sell it.
Attending a job interview
Asking for a raise
I can go on but I hope you can see that all of these tasks provide very real challenges and in most cases, what might really bother you, will be no problem to someone else.
Look at it this way – those ever so helpful “parking enforcement” people, the ones who stalk car parks looking for cars to ticket… you ever seen them get challenged? They stay calm, they look like they don’t care they just get on with issuing the ticket. Now imagine that same person stood in front of a large audience. Think they would be as confident? It’s the same for you too – some of that list terrifies you, whilst some of it is no bother.
So I come back to my question, what is the situation in which you want to be more confident?
Now establishing that is the first part – here is the second part. And I know you might not like the second part, because it might not sound very scientific, but I promise you it works.
Once you have identified WHERE you want to be more confident, the next stage is to actually BE more confident. And this is where people think there is going to be an amazing technique, and are sometimes disappointed. Let me tell you though, what I am going to share works – absolutely.
- Know what you need to know. In many situations the more we know the better equipped we feel. I bet when you stand up and present your idea or pitch, you know it better than anyone else in the room, no matter how senior the people in the audience are? Yes – then take comfort from that. If not – you better prepare more.
- Be as prepared as YOU can be. This is not understood by many people – but practicing what you want helps. Practicing in the same place helps more. Imagine running through what you want to say to your boss, in the same room you plan to ask for a raise. It’s like a real rehearsal.
- This is the big one (and the big disappointment … but stay with me). If you REALLY want extra confidence —- just PRETEND you are already confident.
OK … I can sense the excitement draining away … but here’s the thing. Your brain (and mine, and everyone else for that matter) cannot tell the difference between reality and something vividly imagined. And this is key to you being more confident.
Who do you know who is confident in this situation (the one in which you want to be more confident)
How would that person be in that situation? How do they walk, talk and stand.
How well do people react to that person, their proposition, their pitch, whatever it is they are doing that you want to replicate?
Once you’ve thought that through (and this sounds silly I know, but I promise it works) in your mind you need to stand up like the person you’re thinking of. Imagine you are them speaking, or pitching, or asking for the raise. Imagine seeing the positive reactions. Imagine hearing what is said, and how well it all goes. Make sure you are standing positively in the way the person does. You obviously aren’t going to do an impression but even run through some of what you’re planning to say in the way your target person might.
So after doing what I said above, your final stage is to absolutely tell yourself you are confident. Be really careful of negative self-talk – any amount of saying you are nervous, or new, or not sure what people will think of you, will undo all the good work. It sounds incredible, and it is… your brain will be aware of how you are standing, talking, what you are saying, and will look for patterns. You are going to re-programmer for positive and confidence.
Now that is a (vastly improved) version of the exact same technique I first used when I was just 15 to get more confident (I used to be REALLY shy). I have also taught similar patterns to really senior people in organizations right across the UK, Europe and further afield.
The other fascinating thing about this technique, each time you use it and get a good result, you will naturally start to become more confident. Starting from scratch when I was 15, and without knowing what I was doing, I reckon it took six months to get genuinely and naturally confident.
I’ll be excited to hear your results with this tool – please post in the comments.
BONUS TIP for extra confidence
OK so this is something I have developed with some of my clients to help them at speaking events. Like some of the above it might sound ridiculous, but it absolutely works. Try it and let me know.
Find your “everything is great” tune. Doesn’t matter what it is (though I’d love to know in the comments below!). It has to be the tune that makes you stand ten feet tall, the tune you asked your current partner to dance to, the tune that makes you turn it up loud and dance like you own the place ….
Get this tune ready and moments before you are due to do what you need the confidence for, give yourself a blast. Notice how all the old feelings of confidence come flooding in, and then, just as you are feeling invincible, it’s time to go for it….