Sunday, April 3, 2016

How to Be Quietly Confident

confindent man in tuxedo adjusting cuffs
A confident man in a tuxedo adjusts his cuffs.

Confidence is one of the most desirable qualities a person can have. Confident people get better jobs, have more satisfying social lives, and are happier overall than those who lack confidence. Developing your confidence may take time as you learn to replace old habits with new ones, but it is achievable. As with most things worth doing, it takes persistence.

Part One: Knowing and liking yourself

Step 1. Self assessment. We all have doubts about ourselves and our abilities, but when they pile up, we stop liking ourselves and those doubts rob us of our confidence. It can be necessary to take concrete steps to remind us that we are people who have achieved things and have skills and abilities.
    •    Make a list of your good qualities. 

    •    Start a journal and keep track of the good things you do each day, even if it’s as minor as being polite to a store clerk or server.
    •    Also in your journal, note what didn’t go well that day and what other action might have turned a bad encounter into a good one.

Step 2. Banish negative thoughts. In our cave-dwelling past, it made sense for us to have more negative thoughts than positive ones. The world was a dangerous place. That’s not true now. Keep it positive with yourself and others. People like being around others who see the bright side of life.    

•    Think of five negative things a day and reframe them in a positive light. Traffic jam on the way to work? A good chance to seek out a new radio station or read more!

    •    Give three compliments a day to people you know. Make them real. Instead of, “I love your necklace,” try, “You always know which jewelry goes with what you’re wearing.”

    •    Smile and make eye-contact with three strangers a day. Not in a creepy way, of course! Strangers can be people in the same aisle of your grocery store, cashiers, or fellow commuters.  

Part Two: Getting it right with others

Step 1. Limit your conversation. Remember, it’s quietly confident. Talk in moderation. No matter how interesting a story or observation you may have, the most interesting—and confident—people are those who listen to others and choose their words with care. Learn to ask open questions instead of ones that can be answered with a simple yes or no.

Step 2. But when you do talk … Chances are you have an interest in a variety of things. If it’s something others find interesting too, or might, spend a little extra time to learn more about it. If the topic comes up, make sure what you add to the conversation is expressed with confidence. Eliminate the rising intonation at the end of statements and try not to soften sentences in ways that make you sound unsure. It’s okay to say, “It’s nice out today, isn’t it?”, but avoid statements like, “I think the price of coffee has gotten too high.”

Step 3. Don’t be needy. Humans are social animals, but confident people are fine on their own. Don’t agree with others if doing so conflicts with your beliefs, but don’t be a chronic naysayer either. When confident people reach an impasse with someone, they end the disagreement tactfully, without anger. Their egos aren’t involved. One simple way to do this is to just say, “You may be right. I’ll think about what you said.”

Part Three. Paying attention to the physical

Step 1. Body language. There are those who will tell you that body language counts for over half of communication between two people. Such claims are often exaggerated and irrelevant: If you’re at a crowded party, sitting at a desk, or crammed into a bus seat, it’s going to be your words that speak for you. However, when space permits, body language counts. Stand tall, but relaxed. Smile. Remember to breathe. A body of recent studies shows that body language works both ways. Just as we stand a certain way when we feel confident and good about ourselves, standing that way when we don’t can change our feelings for the better. Don’t believe it? Try standing like a superhero for a few minutes and see for yourself!

Step 2. Appearances count. Confident people know that feeling good physically makes them feel good mentally. If you don’t exercise, consider starting. You don’t have to go overboard. Take a walk around the neighborhood after a meal. Get off the elevator at work a few floors before yours and take the stairs. When doing so, see it as a chance to practice good posture. And you might even meet someone! Think about other material matters that can help you exude confidence.
    •    Pay attention to your personal hygiene. Style your hair, trim your nails, floss your teeth.

    •    Eat good food as part of a balanced diet.
    •    Look at how people you admire dress. Would any of what they wear look good on you? Would you feel comfortable dressed like they are? Don’t be afraid of bold accessories!

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