How to Build Your Self-Confidence at Work
How can you improve your self-confidence?
In this blog, Happy's Senior Facilitator Paul breaks down self-confidence into thoughts, feelings and behaviour. This technique can help you to find different ways to approach a new experience that you might be worried about.
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One of the icebreakers I use when I am running a course is 'The Wisest Thing You’ve Ever Been Told.' It gets people thinking and there are some lovely responses: 'Be yourself, everyone else is taken,' 'You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no,' and my favourite, 'Nothing good ever came of a Christmas party.'
But the one that has stuck with me over the years is 'Confidence is what you get after you do things, not before.' In other words, you can wait forever to get the confidence to do the thing you've always wanted to do, and it will not turn up. But do that thing and it will.
Shame. It would be nice for there to be a painless way to get what we want, but my experience is that I just have to put up with the discomfort of nervousness, self-doubt and uncertainty, in order to get it.
So, if the secret to self-confidence is 'Just do it!', what would it benefit anyone to learn more about how to overcome that fear?
Sometimes, it helps to recognise that the sort of self-confidence we wish we had, we have already demonstrated in our lives. Most people reading this post have a job or have had jobs in the past. That meant attending and passing a job interview. Almost certainly, they will have felt nervous on the day. But somehow, they had the will to get through that and do it anyway.
This will not just have happened once, but on many occasions: the confidence to go on a date, to complete an exam, to speak at a meeting. Notice, that on all those occasions, it is likely that the person involved will have felt nervous, and yet they carried on. According to Susan David in a recent TED talk called The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage, courage is 'fear walking.' In the same talk, she suggests that wanting to have a life without negative feelings is an ambition of the dead. If you live, you will experience negative as well as positive emotion.
Broadly, though, we can break down our experience into three elements: thoughts, feelings and behaviour. This is helpful in finding different ways to approach a new experience. Let's take thoughts as an example.
Our thinking is like a constant commentary on our experience: "I can't do this! Other people are much better than me. What’s the point in trying?" It's such a constant experience in our lives that we often fail to notice it, like background noise. But it has an effect. The good news is that we can gain perspective on our thinking by asking ourselves some simple questions. One of the most useful is, "What advice would I give a friend in the same situation?"
I recently ran a time management course and we were discussing the simple system of breaking tasks down into Important-Urgent, Important-Not Urgent, Not Important-Urgent and Not Important-Not Urgent. One of the participants said that all of her tasks came out as 'Important.' There were a couple that she might move down to 'Not Important,' but, on reflection she would keep them as 'Important.' I asked her what she would advise a friend in the same situation. Without a pause, she said, "I would suggest they move these two back down to 'Not Important.'"
We tend to give better, kinder advice to friends than we give to ourselves. And this is equally true for those situations where we need confidence. If a friend wanted to go for a job they had always wanted, we would probably encourage them to do so. But if it is ourselves, we find reasons not to do so. Why not trust your 'friend' advice? After all, you only want the best for them.
In a similar way, there are simple techniques to help us deal with feelings and behaviour. Learning to be more assertive, for example, can help to increase our confidence in difficult situations.
We'll be exploring some of these techniques on a day on building self-confidence, at the end of November. Learning from our own experience but also trying out some new ideas.
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Paul is a Masters qualified trainer with experience in interpersonal skills, work skills and management training. He has worked in the public, private and voluntary sectors for over fifteen years. Paul has a Distinction in the Institute of Personnel Development Training Certificate and the teacher-training certificate for Mindfulness-Based Approaches from the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. In 2017, Paul was a Finalist for the Learning Professional of the Year at the 2017 Learning Awards.
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