Taking an audit of your own strengths and weaknesses is the key to building confidence.
In all aspects of life, confidence is acknowledged as a positive quality to possess. Confidence enables us to effectively communicate our personality and abilities to others through the way we act and handle tasks. It is therefore a valuable, or even a vital skill in the workplace. So why exactly is confidence so important, and what can be done to improve your confidence, at work in particular?
There are many possible reasons for a lack of confidence at work, such as insecurities about whether your skills match up to a job’s requirements, feeling threatened by having less experience than colleagues or having a bad relationship with a boss or peers. Lacking confidence in the working environment is not at all unusual; so much so, that many people aren’t even aware that their confidence could do with a boost.
Although of course it can’t be made accountable for all problems in the workplace, a lack of confidence and self esteem can in fact be the underlying cause for many of them, such as bad relationships with co-workers or a lack of recognition foryour achievements. Furthermore, a lack of confidence can lead the way into a vicious cycle. If you feel insecure about your own abilities, it follows that you might procrastinate or turn down tasks where you feel out of your depth. If others notice that you lack confidence or don’t complete challenging tasks, they may well consider you less capable than you really are. After all, can your colleagues really be expected to acknowledge your capabilities if you don’t even acknowledge them yourself? If co-workers and bosses consider you to be less capable than you really are, they will become less likely to consider you for important tasks, thus quite possibly lowering your own self confidence and taking you right back to the start of this cycle. To avoid such a scenario, it is clear that any confidence issues really do need to be addressed.
Your level of confidence is on show from the very moment somebody meets you. First judgements on a person can be made within seconds, perhaps before any words have even been exchanged. Many characteristics can be conveyed without you even realising – through subconscious factors such as your tone of voice or body language. A quieter voice or a lack of eye contact can come across quickly and make you seem nervous and ill at ease, which in turn reflects badly on your skills, making others less likely to trust your abilities or to entrust challenging or important tasks to you.
So once you have realised that you lack confidence, how do you go about addressing this problem?
It might seem that appearing confident is easy; just feign confidence through acting more assertive and you’re onto a good thing! In actual fact however, aiming to be more assertive in a working environment is a risky business. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance and it is a dangerous line to cross in a working environment. Common symptoms of arrogance and overconfidence are overestimating your skills and talking up your abilities. Exaggerating your skills can lead you to take on projects that you are ill-equipped to deal with, which will only show you up in the end. Talking up your abilities can make you come across to your peers as off-putting and superior. Let’s face it – a self-assured, competent person is unlikely to relish the feeling of superiority anyway. It is clear that if your confidence needs a boost, faking it is not going to change anything. A better aim is to communicate in a clear and effective manner so that your confidence and skills show through your actions and accomplishments, rather than your words.
‘Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right’ – Henry Ford.
To really work out how to show your confidence, it is necessary to go deeper. It is only once you have identified your weaknesses that you can really work on them. This way you can solve any problems rather than avoiding tasks that you feel less adapted to. While the importance of addressing weaknesses cannot be denied, there is also a great value in identifying your strengths and capitalizing on them. Use your skills whenever the opportunity arises and make sure to reflect on your accomplishments. Not acknowledging your talents is little better than not having them in the first place, so allow yourself to take pride in the work you do. This will boost your self esteem and make you more aware of your skills, thus making you better equipped for success in future tasks. If opportunities to put your skills to use are lacking in your current job, then perhaps it’s time to think about a change!
As well as clear strengths and weaknesses, many of us have qualities that we are unaware of. It can be useful therefore to take a step back to really think about how you act as a person. How exactly do you move, speak and interact? How do you project yourself to those around you? Make sure to think about more than just what you say. We have established that a lot can be communicated through body language and tone of voice, so these factors must be taken into account too.
Other people often notice a lot about us that we are ourselves unaware of, as we often subconsciously convey more of our insecurities than we realise. This can be used to our advantage. Consult a friend whose opinion you respect and trust and ask them to describe the impression you give. Don’t be downhearted if you are shocked by the way others see you. Any such discoveries are positive, giving you the opportunity to make a change. Once you have considered the impression you make on others, this exercise is useful in reverse too. Think of a person around you whom you consider to be confident and competent in their work. What is it about them that conveys their confidence? Emulate this behaviour.
Emulating behaviour is a particularly useful technique if your role model’s confidence shows through their body language or voice. Standing tall, with your shoulders back and your tummy tucked in will make you seem at ease. Not only will this posture improve your appearance, but it will also improve breathing and circulation, thus helping you look and feel composed and in control. Eye contact is also important; you will hardly come across as confident and capable if you are always dodging eye contact or looking at the ground!
As I have already mentioned, tone of voice also carries an indication of confidence (or lack thereof). While 38 per cent of human communication is through words, only 7 per cent is based on the words you say, with the rest attributed to the way you say them. Speak clearly, using inflection to punctuate your sentences. Pace your speech well – rushing will show nerves. Make sure to listen, smile and nod when appropriate. Strong, positive body language and a great speaking voice will combine to show you to be a confident, self-assured individual.
It may seem that there are an impossible number of things to consider if you want to come across as confident at work, so be realistic. You can’t possibly change everything at once. Once you know what your strengths and weaknesses are and which areas you want to work on, take on small projects that you feel are challenging but manageable to boost your confidence through their completion. Reflect on your achievements. Think about what you enjoyed and what you did well, so that you build up a mental picture of your skills and can keep an eye open for opportunities to use them again.
The absolute key to true confidence has to be knowing where your strengths lie and believing in yourself and your talents. It is only once you begin to believe in your talents that others will do the same.