Top tips on building self-confidence and influence

People are more likely to listen to someone speaking confidently than someone speaking accurately without confidence.

Which is a big shame for those that have something of value to say but lack the confidence to say it convincingly. Here are three main ways of developing your self-confidence , 1) play with your words, music and dance, 2) challenge your internal mental scripts, otherwise known as the little voice inside your head that might be saying you can’t do something, and 3) get out of your comfort zone.

1) Words, music, dance

The 7% 38% 55% rule developed by Dr. Albert Mehrabian has been sorely misinterpreted. That is to say that claims have been made that just 7% of the impact of our communication comes from the words we use, 38% from music (tone of voice) and a chunky 55% from dance (body language). His research was about communicating feelings and emotions, not about communicating information.

Choosing your words wisely and providing accurate information is absolutely essential for establishing credibility and persuading others to your views. But importantly, your music and dance need to be in alignment with what you say and are valuable tools for making an impact.

Whatever your personal views on Trump, he’s an interesting example of how body language can be used to give some punch to what is being said – take a look at how he communicates. His hand gestures indicate how chaotic situations can be resolved with (what he believes to be) his precise and sound proposals.

Amy Cuddy gives a very insightful talk on expansive postures. Adopting an expansive posture (taking up as much space as you can) vs. a contractive posture increases people’s sense of power. The outcome being that we are happier, more optimistic, more confident and more likely to take action among other things. Social Scientists continue to debate and research some of her findings but have a go at changing your posture and see what impact that has for you. Better yet, video yourself delivering the message you want to convey so you can get a sense of the impact as a member of the audience.

To learn more about what you say and utilising your vocals watch Julian Treasure’s talk. He proposes HAIL, that is speaking Honestly, with Integrity, Authenticity and Love i.e. wishing others well. And he shares how you can adjust things like your volume, pace and pitch to get people listening with great interest.

My favourite is playing with silence. If you can get comfortable with silence, it’s an invaluable tool for grabbing back attention. Try it in a presentation and if anyone was losing attention, you’ll notice everyone re-centres on you when you take a long pause.

2) Challenge your mental scripts

Mental scripts are our internal narratives and have developed over time based on past experiences. Together with behavioural scripts, they can be very useful in automating reactions and repetitive tasks, like how driving a car becomes easier the more you do it as your scripts will be making this an automatic process.

But sometimes mental scripts hold us back. We shoot down our own ideas or do not want to try something for fear of failure. Become more conscious of your internal narratives – what’s holding you back?

Attribution theory (Heider, 1958 and expanded by Weiner, 1985) is the process of establishing what we think the cause of an event or another person’s behaviour is and it’s useful for reviewing what’s going on in your head.

The theory is that when we identify a cause for something, we determine if it is an internal or external cause, stable or unstable, and within or outside of our control. Think of the last time something didn’t go well at work. Was it because you didn’t do something right (internal), or something about the situation that made it difficult (external)? Was it a one-off (unstable), or would a similar event always end with the same poor outcome (stable)? Is it within your control to change the outcome or not?

If you’re answering internal, stable and outside of your control, that’s likely going to be taking a hit on your self-confidence because you’re saying that it’s because of you, it’ll always be the same bad result and there’s nothing you can do about it. Really try to challenge those responses and develop a growth mind-set i.e. it is always possible to learn, develop and take some element of control.

3) Get out of your comfort zone

You’ll have a lot more confidence doing activities within your comfort zone. This is one of the Four Cornerstones of generating self-confidence.  The thing is, how do you make that zone wider? Take small steps out of your comfort zone and you’ll soon find it expanding. Dropping a stone into a still lake creates a huge ripple effect but drop one in the ever moving and adapting sea and the impact is much less. So try chopping and changing – here’s what others have done:

  • Sitting in a cafe or restaurant by yourself, without being glued to the phone.
  • Diving – no mean feat to leap off a diving platform from a height!
  • Cycling or walking to work for all or part of the commute.
  • Getting involved in a different project at work in a different area of expertise.
  • Having a difficult conversation at work (if there’s one you’ve been putting off).
  • Saying ‘yes’ to social events that you would usually say no to.
  • Pottery and sculpting.
  • Adrenalin sports – sky diving and the such like.
  • Volunteering for charity work.

Find people that share an interest in developing, exploring and trying new things. Why? As Scott Dinsmore put it, “you are the average of the people you hang out with”.

 What to do next…

  1. Practice adjusting your vocals and body language in a few non-critical situations.
  2.  Get some feedback from a friendly critic – (or even a non-friendly critic if you’re prepared for that!).
  3. Be conscious of your mental scripts and challenge your internal narrative.
  4. Do one thing in the next week to get out of your comfort zone.

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