Training For Confidence
Why It’s A Skill Employees Need To Have
Question: How can you help someone become confident?
A friend called and asked me to help one of his employees. Our discussion went something like this: “I have this very bright, young female employee who hangs back, doesn’t contribute in meetings and well, is just too quiet. I need you to fix her.” I sometimes get these requests, however, this one surprised me in that I knew this employee and couldn’t imagine her hanging back or worse yet, not contributing. It became clear during our first conversation that she wasn’t hanging back; she was blocked – blocked by a lack of confidence predicated on not knowing just how to be in these meetings.
I turned to an expert, Alyssa Dver, Chief Confidence Officer (CCO)at the American Confidence Institute. I shared the young woman’s story to which Alyssa shared her perspective on confidence based on her studies tapping “science and social secrets.” She quickly pointed out that confidence is not a genetic trait with which we are born. She explained, “Confidence is a skill – you must choose it. Recognize it as a choice.” CCO Dver then posited that we should shift our thinking on confidence to a skill set we practice. “When we learn to drive, few of us know how a car actually works. We learn to operate the car and it becomes nearly habitual. Driving is a skill – just as adopting confidence is a skill.”
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What is confidence? “Confidence is being certain (enough) about the truth of something.” From this definition, as a starting point, Dver continues by adding that individuals need to become certain enough about one’s own values, wants and needs to gauge importance. These three key attributes position one to decide “how to act and react/behave.” Her formula made a great deal of sense to me. Become self-aware, know what matters to us personally, and then determine your approach.
So, if confidence can be learned, where do we start? The American Confidence Institute works with elite athletes. Their “prescription” for embracing confidence includes three types of learning experiences:
- Skills training – Gaining the ability to perform competently. In the sports world, this translates into honing the basics associated with performing within a given sport. This could include mastery to improve mobility, agility, flexibility, and handling whatever equipment might be core to the sport.
- Mental training – Analyze and adjust one’s performance based on game “conditions.” Maybe the weather becomes a factor, or a fractious home crowd is distracting, or the athlete is recovering from the flu. I think of this as getting into the zone or inflow.
- Emotional training – Strength, confidence, and prowess can be handled through emotional management. Emotional training becomes most significant with those issues which while not directly related to the athlete’s performance can be distracting or derailing if not carefully managed.
Alyssa Dver points out, “Like physical training, building core confidence helps push our limits further and in return, gives us more resilience to overcome obstacles.” Her suggestion for my friend’s employee was to drop back and “train” for the work environment as if she were an elite athlete. By starting with the knowledge of who we are and in what we believe, we can train our skills, mental acuity and inner emotional turmoil just as carefully. So knowing that we can in fact, train for confidence AND be true to our philosophical foundation, what other tools can we embrace to be confident?
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Confidence according to Dver, is not just an inner state of mind. We “demonstrate” confidence in the way we carry ourselves, engage with others in dialogue and debate and even how we display emotion. She points out that confident characteristics include: staying calm, listening better, being diplomatic but decisive, not judging others, apologizing appropriately, not reacting defensively and being open to learning. Likewise, she offers the “non-confident tells” (those things that suggest to others that we aren’t confident in ourselves): avoiding eye-contact, slouching, giggling nervously, constantly seeking approval, fidgeting, being too quiet or too loud, interrupting others, or always disagreeing.
The employee and I reflected on how she presents herself, particularly in meetings. She was raised in a culture where junior team members were quiet until called upon. Further complicating the non-confident picture, was again a cultural influence that had her looking at her notebook and not maintaining eye contact. She quickly realized that with a few small adaptations she could appear differently to her boss – and remain true to herself. She further realized that it was her choice to make to step up and step into the work environment created by her boss and colleagues. In our most recent session, she asked an important question: If this was so important to my boss, why didn’t he approach me about it? I silently chuckled, acknowledging I had asked myself that very question. I replied, “We can’t change others. We can only manage ourselves.”
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The key to the progress exhibited by this young and talented employee was that she had taken control of her situation. She knew what her boss expected (even though he hadn’t approached her directly). She modified her behavior to appear confident and began working on the practice of actually becoming confident. As Alyssa Dver’s points out, “you can’t take a pill to become confident, this is a skill and a choice. You’ll fall off the wagon, and won’t always be 100% confident in your presentation or presence, keep practicing.”
The employee says she is feeling more confident and continues to actively “training.” She says there are still days where she has to work harder at it than others, yet knows what she has to do.
I sincerely appreciate Alyssa Dver, the American Confidence Institute, Chief Confidence Officer's willingness to discuss the subject of confidence. . I’ve tried to represent her thoughts fully; however, you are reading my interpretation of our conversation. She is the author of "Kickass Confidence: Own Your Brain. Up Your Game" (her new book is scheduled for publication in the Spring).
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