Spill the Truth: Confidence. Can it be learned?

Spill the Truth: Confidence. Can it be learned?

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Recently, I was invited to participate on a panel put on for students in an MBA program. The topics ranged from how to start a business and climb the corporate ladder, to how leaders should spend their time.For 90 minutes, my panel partner and I fielded questions, shared life lessons and offered advice to a room full of eager listeners.

The students asked many compelling questions. But a young woman asked me one after the session that really hit home: “Have you always been this confident?”

I could tell by her sincerity that she believed I had emerged from my mother’s womb fully ready, willing and able to tackle all of life’s challenges.

So, I quickly replied, “Hardly. What you perceive as confidence is the result of a conscious decision to present myself in a positive way. And you can learn to do the same thing.”

In her introductory comments, the professor who’d invited me to be on the panel likened me to Apple’s founder Steve Jobs and Olivia Pope, a character on the TV series “Scandal,” in that I’m a lifelong risk taker. The truth is there was a time when I was terrified of being called on in class.

Sadly, many people believe that confidence is a trait you’re either blessed with at birth or denied from having your entire life.

And yet, it can be learned. Plus, it’s the No. 1 predictor of approval ratings, brand reputation and business success. Why? Because when you have it, you’re more likely to make positive impressions.

So, how do you become more confident? Start by following these proven strategies:

  • Speak favorably about yourself. Take a cue from the Little Engine that Could. Phrases such as “Piece of cake” and “I got this” are instant confidence makers. It’s simple—be your biggest fan.
  • Take risks. I say, “Plug your nose and jump.” By forcing yourself to face your fears you greatly increase your chances of succeeding. And success begets confidence.
  • Practice makes perfect. You can’t learn to speak a foreign language, dance or play hockey well unless you practice. It’s the same with confidence. You need to practice feeling, appearing and being confident when times are good, so that you’ll actually feel, appear and be confident when times are tough.
  • Fake it until you make it. Even when you doubt your capabilities, never let your body language give you away. Stand tall, hands at your sides, make direct eye contact and smile. When others believe you can do it, so will you.

Before you act . . .
Take other people’s compliments to heart. Listen for validation about the things you’re doing well and build on them. And don’t double down on negative self-messages if you mess up. Instead, give yourself credit for pursuing a change that will benefit every facet of your life.

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