I recently did a video on confidence – how to get and stay in the flow of confidence. And I got some really great comments. Thank you.
In those comments, people were asking me to go another level deeper and give more about the how – how to feel confident, display confidence, give others confidence. And that’s what this video’s about.
So I’ll take each of those in turn and let’s start with, how do you feel more confident?
How to feel confident
I’ve five strategies to share with you. The first one is…
Stay between your ears
This comes from my daughter who recently attended a basketball camp where the instructor was talking about staying between your ears being critical in terms of doing what you want to do and not worrying about what others think. Wonderful, right?
He told a story about himself in high school where he was playing in a big game and he kept missing these free throws which were supposed to be easy. He started to lose confidence and it made it just worse.
It got to the point where he couldn’t help but think, what was the crowd thinking? What are my fellow players thinking? What is this going to do to the outcome of the game?
It just got worse and worse until he realised that he had to stay focused on what was between his ears, which is simply stay focused on his task at hand and what he is trying to do. After that he started to make his shots and it was all good.
So, stay between your ears.
The second strategy is one that I call…
Bring your caddy
Bring your caddy refers to bringing someone who can help talk you down from where ever you’ve hyper spaced yourself to. For me, that could be a lot of places!
It comes from having recently been watching the Masters and realising that the coach for these players doesn’t walk around with the players. It’s the caddy that does and the caddy does much more than simply select clubs and hand them to the player. The caddy is there also to provide moral support, re-affirmation and to help the players keep their confidence up.
We all would want to have a caddy, right? I’d love to have a caddy walk around with me all the time and help me keep my confidence up.
Recently I had an example that I would like to share with you, which was I was recently creating and shooting my very first online course. Anytime you do something for the first time, it’s a bit nerve racking and it’s easy to lose confidence.
Fortunately I had my caddy there, Mickey, who’s my Digital Media Strategist (I’m not sure he knows I’m referring to him as a caddy but it’s a positive thing). He helped talk me down from wondering, worrying, “Oh my gosh! Did I consult with this person? I forgot to ask that person this. Will this be useful? Etc, etc.”
So, very useful. I highly recommend having your caddy if you can bring one along.
Third strategy is to…
Do something physical
What I like to do in a meeting, for example, or if I’m about to give a talk and I’m feeling a little unconfident, I need that little extra boost of confidence, I like to breath. I take three cleansing breaths and find some excuse to stretch. So breathe and stretch.
You’d be amazed what you can get away with in a meeting if you just… you know, try it, you’ve got a lot of flexibility to work with there.
The fourth strategy is to…
Say your mantra or play your highlight reel
What do I mean by that?
Well a mantra is a set of sentences that you write for yourself, and others help you write, that you can say, that is your own self-affirmation.
I’ll share with you mine that I used to use for many years in my career and it really helped me to feel confident when I needed to. Here’s how it went:
“Hi, I’m May Bush. I’m very good at my job. I’m as good as any of them and better than most. I’m calm, cool and confident and I know what I’m talking about.”
So you could write your own. That was mine and it worked for me. But the key is to write one that works for you and then say it to yourself. I’d say it in the bathroom before going up on stage and giving a talk, for example.
The highlight wheel on the other hand is something that my clients seem to really like and find useful. And that’s simply taking the mental video clips of yourself in your very best, when you’re in the zone, when you’re just doing great stuff and feeling super confident. And just putting them all together in a highlight reel that you can play to yourself, whether with your eyes closed, eyes open, but that gives you that boost of confidence.
So remember those times when you were really feeling strong and confident and in your zone, and put them together – bam, bam, bam – and then play it for yourself.
Know your lines
The fifth strategy is best used when you’re about to go in and make a speech or give a presentation in a meeting, and that is simply to know your opening lines cold.
That will give you a huge amount of confidence and get you off on the right foot, and then you can just take it up from there.
So, those are five strategies you can use right away to help feel more confident.
Now let’s move on to how do you display confidence.
How to display confidence
I’m going to share with you three strategies that I developed from the time when I was in banking.
Just to give you the back drop, I was already a very senior person at the time, already a Managing Director and I had a team working for me covering most of Europe. Most of the team were male and taller than me. Some would say most people are taller than me, but there you have it.
So when we walked in to meet with clients, I discovered that, often times, my juniors would have to explain to their clients that no, no, no, they had brought the big boss in to meet with them – that I was the boss.
I realised that it was not helpful to my team and that I needed to up my game and display the kind of confidence right up front that their boss, the senior person, should have.
So that’s where I started to be much more intentional and conscious about how do I best display confidence when I’m walking in to a new situation, to a situation where I’m entering a meeting room, perhaps meeting people for the first time at a senior level.
So the first strategy that I used was…
How to enter the room
I know it sounds simple but it has a few steps. So before going in, actually say, remind myself, “Okay, I’m going to be on now. It’s show time and I know what I’m going to say.” So I’d have it all ready in my mind and I would prepare the first thing that I was going to say beforehand.
Then we would open the door, stride in, and I would make sure that I was going in first and I would walk confidently, stand with good posture, go right up to the senior person that I was supposed to interact with, shake his hand, look him right in the eye, smile – I’m a big fan of smiling – and say, “Henry, great to meet you. I really enjoyed that Wall Street Journal article about you last week.” Or something like that.
Right away, I wanted to make that connection. I wanted to be the first to engage and display my confidence in that way and I would also say, “Oh, yes I’m the head of this or so and so of that.” And that seemed to work really well for me.
The second strategy was when we all sat down. Then it was about how I physically appeared in the room and how I utilised the room.
Own your space and project authority
In terms of this strategy number two, it was all about first taking up my space, making sure I had a proper space at the table, that I was sitting upright, sitting straight in my chair, full on and taking up that whole piece of the water front, if you will, of my side of the table. Whatever I did, I was not going to perch on the corner or kind of sit squished to one side.
I was going to take up my space and then make eye contact – really important. Now I’m assuming that you are not in a culture where eye contact is a negative so, that case aside, it’s really important to look people in the eye. Not in an aggressive or threatening way but in an open, engaged way like you’re really, really interested, which you ought to be.
And then in speaking, I would make sure I was speaking deliberately and making statements, as opposed to bringing the tone up at the end of a sentence. You know when you do that it turns into a question? It doesn’t display confidence – it’s the opposite. So I was always making statements and sounding professional.
Then the third strategy that I employed really came into play when I was being challenged.
Keep your cool
No matter how senior, great or not great we are, we’re always going to come up with situations where we are being challenged in a meeting by somebody else. In those situations, what I’ve found to be critical is to keep your cool and just not bat an eyelid, nothing like that for everybody else to say, “Wow, how professional. She’s really comfortable in her own skin.”
So, you could say any number of things. Maybe something like, “Huh, David, that’s a really interesting point. I hadn’t thought about that before. What does the rest of the room think?” Or, “Could you tell us more about that?” Or, “Have you thought about it in this following way?”
However you want to do it, it’s a little like Tai Chi – they ping one at you and then you gracefully send it right back without batting an eyelid. So you can find your own way to do that but, above all, you’ve got to just keep your cool.
So those are three strategies that you can start employing right now to help display your confidence.
How to give confidence to others
This is my favourite part because, when you give confidence to others, you gain confidence yourself and it creates a really positive virtuous cycle.
Now, as you’re doing this, very useful first to figure out any kind of background because that will help you help these others much better. So, find out why they are feeling unconfident.
Is it because it’s the first time they’ve done this? Or maybe the last few times they’ve done it, it hasn’t gone so well. Or maybe they just don’t feel prepared.
So knowing the background, it’ll help you give them better advice.
In any case, here are two kinds of situations and strategies that can help you to give confidence to others. The first set is about building their confidence beforehand and then the second kind is about giving them confidence in the moment when they’re already in the thick of it.
So the first part, helping them build confidence beforehand.
Building people's confidence beforehand
I’m reminded of when I was just starting out in banking and I was about to get on a conference call in a few days’ time to explain my analysis to a client. I still remember the client was JC Penny. And I was so nervous. Had never done this before.
My boss at the time, Madeline, was fantastic. She did the following things to really help build my confidence from pretty much zero to a pretty high level today. What she did was, first she helped me develop the tools and gave me the training so that I knew how to do the analysis, and I knew the nuts and bolts.
Then what she did was gave me the opportunity to practice. She and I sat down and she had me do a run-through, a dry run of how I was going to present to the client. Then she gave me feedback.
So she watched, listened and gave me feedback. And the way she gave me feedback was so constructive. She used only positive, constructive words and never showed a moment’s doubt or hesitation. Believe me, I had enough doubt for both of us! It was really great that she was so positive in building up my confidence and helping me prepare.
And then, as they say on shampoo bottles, rinse and repeat. Do that several times before the big day and when that day came, she sat with me. We were on the speakerphone so that if things got tricky, and I couldn’t answer some questions, she was right there. All I had to do was look over at her and she was right there to help me field those questions. Then afterwards, we did another debrief. So it was a really positive, confidence building kind of situation.
If you can do that for someone else, they will really appreciate it. And that’s a gift that you’re giving them, of building their confidence.
Giving people confidence in the moment
Now, when it comes to giving people confidence in the moment, I’ve got three strategies to share with you there. The first one is to…
Tell them a story
Once you know what the situation is then you can find just the right story to tell them to give them at boost of confidence.
The example that comes to mind here is the time when I was about to give a speech in front of 500 people at a big conference in London. I was so nervous and, about 45 minutes before the speech, I all of a sudden started getting worried that I hadn’t quite got the flow right, or maybe it was too simplistic. I was going off into hyper space all by myself sitting in the waiting room!
So I thought, “I know, I’ll phone a friend. I’ll call my husband and he can talk me down from here.” I call. He is not home. Who’s home but my daughter, Kristen, who is seven years old at the time.
So Kristen says, “What’s wrong, mommy?” Because she can tell I don’t sound like my normal self.
I said, “Well, mommy’s a little nervous because she’s about to get up in front of lots and lots of people and give a speech. I’m very nervous.”
She said, “Oh, don’t be nervous, mommy. I was just in the situation last week. I was dressed in my Brownie outfit and it turns out that that Wednesday wasn’t Brownie outfit day at all, so I was the only one that was in the Brownie outfit because daddy didn’t know about that, and I was scared to go in the room.”
And I said, “Well what did you do then, Kristen? “
“Well, I went in anyway and nothing happened. It was okay, and then I turned around and I saw Olivia walk in, and Olivia was also wearing her Brownie outfit so it was even more okay. So, mommy, you can do it. Go out there. It’s okay. It’ll all be fine.”
Just as a side note, Olivia and my daughter were the only two in that class whose fathers were looking after them. So note to self: those guys need to get in the grapevine.
But coming back to the story, it was the perfect story. I’m thinking, “Oh my goodness! My seven year old has just found the perfect story to tell me so that I can get out there and do my thing and feel confident and feel okay.” So, if my seven year old can give the gift of confidence, surely you can too and find just that right story.
The second strategy in the moment for giving confidence is…
Get the person to do something physical
Two ideas I really like are, first, the one from RADA, which is The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.
They taught this one strategy, which is about starting up curled up in a ball and then expanding. So just small to big. When you do that physical expansion, you can’t help but feel really strong and powerful and confident.
Try it, it’s great. Looks a little funny so you want to do it backstage before you get in front of the people.
Then the second one is one that a friend of mine, Cheryl Dolan, teaches and that is about getting on a Swiss ball and sitting on it and bouncing. Just bounce for about two or three minutes and that aligns your neurological system so that, when you get up off the ball, you stand there and you will feel so routed to the ground and really, really confident, and all your nervousness will have disappeared. And if not, that means you need to bounce some more.
So do something physical like that.
The third strategy is what I call…
Be the caddy for them
Remember in the earlier part of the video where we talked about how do you feel confident yourself? Well, you could be the caddy for someone else and that’s a great feeling too.
And then no matter what else, a final strategy for all situations is, I find it so great if you can get the person to laugh. It’s very hard, maybe impossible, to feel unconfident when you’re laughing and having fun. So, important to help them to have fun!
Now, what I want you to do is I want you to go out there and use these strategies so you can feel confident, display confidence and best of all give confidence to others.
And then I’d love it if you could share your best strategies for confidence in the comments section below.