Confidence is Catching

We’re talking about confidence this week on Office Worker Health. How important is confidence when you’re delivering a message or asking a question? Can your confidence impact on how your communication is received by others? Senior Management Consultant Keelin McNamara shares her thoughts in this week’s article on the role confidence plays in her life, both in and out of the office.

Keelin McNamara

Confidence, the word, comes from the Latin word "confidere" which means to have "full trust in...", and that trust can be in yourself, in another person, in an organisation, or even in a thing.

In today's world, confidence can play such a role in everything we do. We live in a fast paced era, where people make quick decisions and judgements, often on first impressions, and on how people represent themselves. Are you more likely to respect and heed a confident person's message, than that of a person who comes across as apologetic and almost embarrassed to ask you for some of your time? These two individuals may both be saying the same thing, but research has shown that what people say only counts for about 7% of what people hear - remarkably, it's HOW people say something which creates the impact. Confidence therefore, either at the workplace, or outside, is all about the delivery of the message.

Confidence is catching

In my view, confidence and self-awareness are also quite very closely linked. Self-awareness allows you to understand what you're naturally good at, and those things which you may need to work a bit harder at, than other people. For me, I'm quite good at noticingand remembering small details about people, and I don't think I'm a shy person, but I'm not so crazy about having to speak in public. So, if I had never to do another presentation that would be just fine with me. However, in my role, that's not going to happen, so, I try to do the following things, to exude more confidence than I might feel:

1) See the positive in doing the task in the first place. Experience usually shows that things are easier than you might have originally thought. See the task in a positive light, rather than fear it.

2) Prepare what to say, and prepare how to say it: rehearse / practise (out loud if I really need to), so thank you to anyone who has ever been subjected to this. It might sound over the top, but sometimes it's interesting to record yourself presenting, and watch it back, to notice posture or gestures, which you want to modify or play up.

3) Prepare for the actual delivery. For me, this can be as seemingly trivial as planning what to wear, which can benefit on a few fronts - psychologically, if you feel better about yourself, you are going to be more comfortable, and practically, planning your wardrobe gives you one less thing to worry about on the day,

4) Speak assertively, make it easy for people to hear you / read your slides. Understand your audience and try to anticipate how your messages will impact them. Will the messages come as a surprise?  Will you need to give them time to digest the information?

5) Prepare for potential questions, remembering that people's minds work differently. Some people need to know why something needs to happen, some people will want to know how something will work, and most people, on some level, will want to know how something will affect them.

6) Thank people for their time and attention, and follow up afterwards, ask for feedback if possible.

Confident Woman giving a presentation

So the above example, is from a very work related perspective, but really confidence in all areas of life is important. Confidence is what allows us to know our mind and to speak out. This might be something trivial, for example if someone drops litter on the ground, and you ask them to pick it and dispose of it correctly, or it may be something practical like bringing back something faulty to a shop and getting a replacement or a refund, or it can be for something much bigger. Confidence is also what allows us to ask questions, to clarify something, Have you ever been grateful that someone asked the same question that you were thinking about?

I recently heard a friend of mine, a father tell his little boy of about 6 that if he (the little boy) was scared of something, he should sing a song, and that will make everything seem better. So if you are a parent, an uncle or aunt, a colleague, a friend, or even a stranger, praise people for their accomplishments, recognise them for their efforts, and support them in doing the things which they might find scary at first. Do the same for yourself: Don't fear making a mistake or asking a question, push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and try something new. If something does not go exactly as you had hoped, see what DID go well and what you could do differently next time. Small steps work. Recognise your achievements, and smile!

Surround yourself with positive confident people, because confidence is catching!