How Life Lessons Can Help You Become More ConfidentAug 22, 2019
You know that person… they walk into a room confident, daring, having it all together. You’re not the only one who notices. You see others turning their heads, too. It’s not necessarily how they’re dressed, although that helps. It’s also the way they carry themselves, shoulders back and upright, long strides, and not a trace of uneasiness in their eyes.
They always seem to know exactly where they’re headed, and they do it with such style that it makes you a little green with envy, but also intrigued. You want to hear their message. Everyone in the room does.
Why? Because they are relevant.
Either through something they’ve achieved, a special talent or skill, or remarkable story, the spotlight shines on them as though no one else exists.
Does everyone have that potential?
The answer is yes… if you cultivate it.
Any successful athlete will tell you they spend as much time on mental preparation as they do on physical practice. Mental preparation is a component of developing more confidence. One of the simple ways to employ this technique is something all great actors like Meryl Streep, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Kate Winslett use. It’s called Method Acting.
Many years ago I had the opportunity to study with two great acting coaches in Los Angeles, Jeff Corey, and Stella Adler. The thing I first noticed about both of them was their charisma. It struck me they were as comfortable in front of people and the camera as though they were sitting down having a conversation with a friend. They skillfully dissected their method to teach it to their students.
The study of acting is learning to become someone else by adopting the character’s mindset. It’s learning the lines and story written by someone else, but creating your own backstory, connecting with that character on a personal level. The director can guide you, but only you can make that character come alive.
You give that character relevance
At first, it doesn’t feel natural. But ask any actor who has played a significant role and they will tell you it felt as real as it gets. They are changed by it.
Some people think they’re not capable but think back to your childhood and all the characters and stories you created as you played. A new bolder you rose up. You could achieve anything and be anyone you chose to become!
Studying acting taught me how to pretend to be confident and comfortable, even when I’m not. Suddenly… you are confident.
It was that mindset, a collaboration between my ability to project confidence, knowing my skills and talents, and calming my nerves that gave me the ability to go into an audition or speaking engagement transformed for the role.
You can develop this role in your own life, too. The more you practice visualizing a more confident and accessible “you,” the more you increase your spotlight.
Add the Trust Factor
Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School Professor, has been studying first impressions for more than 15 years, and in her book, “Presence,” she says people quickly answer two questions when they first meet you:
Can I trust this person?
Can I respect this person?
Most people believe proficiency and accomplishments are important factors that draw people to you, so they want to prove they’re smart and talented enough to handle your business.
Cuddy says trustworthiness is the most critical factor. It begins by displaying interest and warmth.
There are ways to develop warmth in the first few seconds of meeting someone. It’s looking into their eyes. It’s not allowing distractions to take your thoughts away from them. It’s listening with your whole heart, and in turn, your facial reactions are genuine and real. This kind of connection is the foundation for building trust.
Trustworthiness is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “the ability to be relied on as honest and truthful.”
“If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far.”- Amy Cuddy
Rely on the truth to be good enough
Honesty is the most essential part of the trust equation. Sometimes it’s so easy to want to enhance your credits or skills by stretching the truth. But ultimately, it will damage the trust connection.
Rely on the truth to be good enough, because trust isn’t based on professional credits alone. Have you ever met someone at an event that spews all of his credentials and achievements in the first few minutes? This is often the problem people have with timing the ubiquitous “elevator pitch.”
Cuddy says that ill-timed boasting of your attributes can backfire. Most people can spot a rehearsed elevator pitch within the first few words. It becomes much more natural if you want to share who you are until you’re asked or it comes up naturally in a conversation.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”- Dale Carnegie
Start by showing genuine interest in the other person. You build the rapport by letting them, in turn, ask you the questions they want to know.
Humor Can Be the Great Diffuser
Humor is the great diffuser but use it sparingly. It’s that dash of spice that makes the connection a little more fun. Used too much and people won’t take you seriously.
Your experience and expertise don’t guarantee that people will trust you. You can be the best at what you do, but if you don’t let people get to know you, you’re stuck in the black hole of being considered as “unapproachable.”
Be consistent with integrity
“Actions speak louder than words. Just because you say you are a person of integrity… does not make it true.” -Beverly Faxington, Psychology Today article
Are you friendly, kind, compassionate, helpful, generous, accessible? Do you take the high road? Do you offer help to others? Do you share stories of encouragement? We’re human and sometimes it’s hard to be consistent. Gossip may intrigue us, or we may feel personal or professional jealousy at times.
All of us question our motives and struggle with being in alignment with our integrity at one time or another. I’ve had moments of professional jealousy, and I’ve noticed when I break outside of my original thoughts and genuinely congratulate my colleagues on their wins and achievements, it makes me feel better.
More and more I catch myself at the inception of a negative thought. Once you’re aware, it is hard to be unaware.
There’s actually a chemical difference between negative thinking and positive thinking.
When you have positive thoughts, it releases serotonin and creates a feeling of well being.
Negative thinking causes the release of cortisol, feelings of anxiety, stress, and anger. “The brain actually draws precious metabolic energy away from the prefrontal cortex. The brain can’t perform at a high or even normal capacity.” –MeTEOR Education
Sometimes all it takes to shift negative thinking is a decision to take the high road, stop bad thinking, clear the prefrontal cortex to make way for more positive thoughts. I know I feel better when I make that shift.
Relevance is the new remarkable
Bernadette Jiwa says in her book, Difference, that “Relevance is the new remarkable. The people you want to reach decide what’s relevant to them.”
She stresses that instead of waving your arms at the masses, you create something that matters. You focus on what you have to offer and become remarkable at it.
Learn to project the real you
There’s nothing fake about it. You may not feel 100% confident, but your intention is real. You wanting to make a difference has relevance.
You’re on this planet to make a profound difference in peoples’ lives. It’s the difference only you can bring because you are unique. Developing relevance and learning to project that confidence is key to getting your message heard.
At the end of your life, your message and the difference you made is what they’ll remember… but why wait until the end?
**Previously published on The Startup/Medium**