Why does everyone around you always seem so confident?
You look at the people around you, everyone apparently so comfortable in their own skin. They look natural, they seem to be enjoying themselves. Especially in comparison…
Because when it’s your turn to chip in, you end up taking a rain check or saying very little.
And if someone asks YOU a question, you freeze. Your mind goes blank and you go with the first thing that comes to your mind.
It happens when you meet new people. It happens to you at networking events. Sometimes even when people ask you about your work.
Basically any time you are put into the spot light. Sometimes you even let others tell your stories because you think they can do better!
And then you worry you looked stupid.
Is it you? Uncomfortable in social situations, feeling like everyone is so much more confident, unshakable, and cool?
Maybe you’re even right. They might actually have an advantage that you don’t.
The Unfair Advantage
Some people seem to be natural. And indeed, some even are!
They are just born tilting to the bright side. They are more optimistic, outgoing, more persistent, by their genes.
It took a century (since DNA has been discovered) but it’s becoming generally accepted even in scientific circles that some 50% of our personality traits — extroversion, openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism — are rooted in us at the moment of conception.
In fact, Professor Robert Plomin, behavioural geneticist at King’s College in London and pioneer in the field, claims after years of research that all our traits are 50–70% determined by our genes.
So really — don’t blame yourself. You play with the cards you were given.
Ok. But now what? You may ask.
Well, the good news is, provided 50% is the genetics — these cards you were given, the remaining 50% is fully with you — you can add whatever cards you want to your card deck.
The Rose Coloured Glasses
It’s been proven again and again that much of how we perceive the world is attributed to the mind set we have.
Professor Plomin has followed the twin kids for twenty years and correlated their IQ and their confidence, as in their belief that they can do well.
In his experiment, he has found out that confidence trumps IQ when it comes to how successful the kids became in life.
Or, check this TED talk of Susan Cain: The Power Of Introverts where she describes her own story. How she felt overwhelmed and socially awkward until she found out how beneficial, yet different, her contribution is.
And take heart — the world is starting to realize the gold of quiet people!
Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University (and before at Columbia and Harvard) is known for her work on what she calls “The Growth Mindset”.
She has demonstrated that a simple re-frame — the belief that you can improve — can catapult the class of disadvantaged kids (kids from inner cities, from native American reservations, kids that are known to chronically under-perform) from the bottom of the ladder to the very top in the national achievement test.
Just by how teachers approached them. Rather than judgementally — you can’t do this — they approached them cultivating the growth mind set — you can’t do this yet.
“In one year, fourth grade students from South Bronx, way behind, became the number one fourth grade class in the State of New York, on a state math test.” she recaps. And she goes on: “…In one year to year and a half … the Native kids outdid the Microsoft kids.”
The Disadvantage Of The Lucky
Speaking of looking on the bright side —at least you don’t risk to fall into the Overconfidence Bias trap.
Overconfidence Bias is a distorted way of thinking that brings people to make silly decisions based on perceived skills that are simply inflated. Ever met a person that is loud and talkative, but makes little sense and looks like a fool?
Imagine this: you commit to translate 20 pages of text in a week because clearly you are almost bilingual. And then you hand over your translated version of the maintenance manual for electric engines where it is apparent that you have zero technical vocabulary and the text is borderline comprehensive.
Won’t happen to you!
The Truth About Confidence
Although everyone around seems to be embodied walking confidence, their soul is often teeny tiny inside, just like yours.
Maybe they are further ahead of you of faking it till making it. Maybe they are naturally extroverted and it’s easier for them to maintain this all-over-the -place appearance. It doesn’t mean though that they don’t have doubts.
Doubts happen even to the best. Studies estimate that 70% of population experience imposter syndrome — a tendency to attribute their achievements to luck rather than abilities — at least once in their life.
5 Cards To Play To Appear More Confident
Knowledge is power and now you know where you stand. You’ve had just about enough of looking like the least confident person in the room.
You also know that you can choose a significant part of your card deck. Here is how to do it.
#1. Take Your Time And Prep
Prepare your elevator pitch: What is your story? What do you want to be known for? What are you after?
Browse the internet for the keyword “small talk” and compile a list that is appealing to you.
You want to start the conversations about topics that are of interest to you. Because if you are bored to death, chances are your partner notices and gets annoyed.
Prepare your answers to the most common questions you find. Chances are people will ask you these.
#2. Use The Question Hack
When you find yourself caught by surprise by an unexpected question, just ask for clarification. It will buy you time and make your partner feel good at the same time. There are two simple way of doing so:
- Ask where they are coming from.
They are asking for a reason and they will get a chance to speak about themselves and their perspective. It will give you a chance to tune to them and provide a great unique answer relevant to their agenda.
2. Rephrase the question and ask whether you got it right.
Again, they will get a chance to follow up and you will get the time needed to figure out what you want to say.
#3. Get Your Buddies On Board
Ask your close ones to help you get exposure. Especially if you tend to hide or leave the conversation to others.
Ask your friends to help you by actively passing the floor to you. To let you finish their stories where you have common memories.
#4. Get Grounded
You will feel grounded if you are grounded. Stand with the feet at least hip wide, with the body weight exactly in the middle. No wiggling.
If you want to be approached, look approachable — smile, look around. Leave your mobile in your pocket!
Chances are you will be tired and exhausted at first. Know it is normal and it will get better the more you get used to your new approach.
It’s not an excuse for staying in your shell!
You can always lock yourself in a quiet place later to recharge.
Seize Your Opportunity
Practice makes permanent and you will have internalized new ways of navigating through social situations.
No question will catch you off guard — and if it will, you will know that you can turn it around.
Actually, you know that what used to be a handicap is an advantage.
Your future self will make your counterpart feel good about themselves so they ultimately feel good about you as well.
And that is worth a little bit of extra effort. You know you will have time to recharge your batteries later.
Embrace who you are and make the tweaks that work for the outside world, but more importantly, that work for you.