We have a strange array of language to discuss confidence. People have and show it. We find it, whether ours or some generic stock. Some times confidence is given lightly or bestowed on others formally. It comes from within. For others, confidence is structure that crumbles, is rock-solid or builds.

The vagaries of this language reflect the fact that confidence is a feeling – a feeling of belief in or reliance on someone or thing. That status also highlights a limitation of some of the language above. Feelings are fragile and ephemeral. Feelings are contagious and transferable, but they aren’t simple gifts; what is received may not quite match the intent of the giver. Feelings surface and can be discovered but it is not a process of search. Feelings are influenced by thoughts, but they are part of being, not thinking. Feelings are human and that very human experience means that they don’t fit well into predictable business processes that seem to demand confidence in everything everywhere all the time.

Few people are confident about everything. Most people restrict their confidence to specific tasks and situations. Advice to ‘Be Confident’ doesn’t well meet the feelings of uncertainty that resolve around specific situations and tasks. Many of the people perceived to be confident are simply better at disguising their uncertainty and have learned techniques to paper over the cracks. Simply having techniques to give you more time to think, like paraphrasing the question back or a standard introductory patter that buys time, can make you feel more confident by avoiding the perceived pressure of silence and eager ears.

Confidence in your own performance

As hard as it may be, confidence in your own performance begins within. It is your own feelings that need to be sure about what you will achieve. We all have the ability to doubt. We especially doubt those who may seek to build our confidence when we don’t share the appraisal. That is why the gift of confidence is so fragile. However, remember you don’t need to establish universal confidence. You need only feel confident in this task for this time.

Confidence is a classic example of an area in which you need to act yourself to a new way of thinking. Nobody improved their confidence by focusing on the risks and the negatives. We need to concentrate on what we can believe in – the positives, what works and what can be done. Remember you just have to feel confident and hold that to the end. Some times it is preparation and effort. Other times it is dress and attitude that helps us feel confident. Whatever it is, put in the efforts sustain that feeling throughout. When things begin to crumble remain focused on the feeling of confidence and doing what you can do to get through your performance.

The Confidence of Others

Winning the confidence of others is often about performance – both delivery and the acting. Remember you are playing to a feeling, not a fact. People will be most convinced by your own feelings of confidence or the confidence others show in you. They will never be convinced by a hint of your doubts.

Remember that others need not love you universally. They need only have confidence in you for a specific task, a specific role or a specific challenge. Confidence in the relationship can grow over time. Again act yourself into their thinking (and your own).

The confidence of others is rarely transactional. Depth of relationships will drive relationships. Invest time in others and allow them to understand your specific skills and expertise. Invite others to provide feedback on what works and learn from their advice on what you do well. Encourage them to share their opinions with others.

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