I teach an eleven-week course at UCLA Extension on “Interpersonal Communication.” The final assignment is simple – rather than have the students jump through the hoop of an exam, I ask them to tell me in five hundred words or less what they have learned. Last Quarter, one answer in particular stood out. Pablo wrote: “While I was discussing with some fellow students what we learned in this class, I realized that all of us reached the same goal, though in different ways: we all now feel more confident in ourselves.”
I think confidence goes to the heart of successful living and that’s why I named my website “the business of confidence.” Confidence, though, is a feeling, an experience that means different things to different people. Throughout my coaching and teaching I’ve observed that there are twelve things confident people consistently do that set them apart from the “maddening crowd.” And while an argument can be made for more than twelve markers, here are what I consider to be the 12 Most Assured Ways Confident People Telegraph Confidence.
- Confident people don’t whine, blame, sulk or make excuses.
It never occurs to them to make someone into a scapegoat for their mistakes. They resist the urge to feel like a victim because playing the martyr hands over power to persons who really shouldn’t have that kind of power. A client of mine once mused, “my life has been plagued by bad luck.” She then commenced to tell me why life is unfair and how “confidence” doesn’t help her. She quit after the third session!
- Confident people’s pursuit of perfection is not hindered by an obsessive need to be perfect.
The need to be perfectly perfect often paralyzes a person, inhibiting them from speaking-up or taking action. Confident people understand, though, that the pursuit of perfection involves trial and error. They’re willing to float new ideas and engage in the rough and tumble of conversation. They’re smart enough to acknowledge that, yes, judging is a part of social intercourse, but they don’t obsess over being judged “perfect.” They unmask “perfectionism” for the lie that it is.
- Confident people have a sense of humor that they shrewdly manage and display.
They have a playful side, yet know humor is a tricky thing. They can compassionately see the whackadoness of people and situations, never using someone for cheap humor. A friend of mine maintains that life is a never-ending series of moments of small humiliations. If this is true, then confident people are not easily humiliated because they’re able to laugh at themselves as they refuse to take themselves too seriously.
- Confident people understand that there is no such thing as “the” real world.
They are not trapped in a fearfully limited knowledge of life. They know the world is a big place – bigger than cable news and reality TV. And whether they physically travel or not, confident people have learned to comfortably navigate a series of “real” worlds.
- Confident people are not afraid of those who are different from them.
This is simply another way of saying that confident people enjoy a good story. Knowing that every person they meet has loved, lost and been afraid, they engage them with inquisitiveness. Other points of view just don’t threaten their peace of mind.
- Confident people know what they know and recognize what they don’t know.
They strive to establish clarity and mutual understanding and so b.s. is kept to a minimum. They’re not about impressing others with their knowledge.
- Confident people are not insistent that people, and life, “should” be a certain way.
While respecting protocol and procedures, confident people are not constricted by the phrase, “that’s how it’s always been done.” They put a premium on being effective rather than right. And so they delight in cheering and astonishing others with risky thinking and deciding.
- Confident people know their particular biases and are able to sidestep them.
They are familiar with why they see what they see and don’t see what they don’t see. They know what they like and don’t like; what they will tolerate and what is a deal breaker – and they know the “why” for all of this. You’ll never hear a confident person sneer, “That’s just how I am.”
- Confident people understand that the unexpected is unexpected because it’s not expected.
They meet challenges head on with the phrase, “I’ll handle it.” No melodrama. No panic. They take a curve ball in stride because they can think on their feet and are able to improvise with courtesy and sureness.
- Confident people have a spirit of “sprezzatura.”
Okay, so I happen to love this Italian word because it’s says so much more than the English “nonchalance” ever can. It references confident people’s disdain for melodramatic pretentiousness. They are not snobbishly judging, smugly condemning, slavishly analytical or humorlessly practical. Why? Because they have a deep enjoyment of people and projects
- Confident people are not easily swayed by emotional blackmail.
They understand that many people treat passive-aggressiveness as a hobby. However, just because they don’t give in to operatic fits (a confident person doesn’t scream at colleagues and clients), they know “the game” and will take on the attention seekers in all their wily ways with care and professionalism.
- Confident people embrace poet Mary Oliver’s advice, “you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.”
They understand that if they don’t take care of their life, no one else will. They take responsibility because they relish the idea that they have something to offer the world. What they offer may not be of value or use to everyone, yet it will be of value to many. So why wouldn’t they take responsibility?
Read over these twelve marks of the confident and you will glean that perhaps self-confidence is actually self-compassion. And maybe that’s why confidence is scary and elusive. Confidence is really about being kind to your own self and to others. Clean. Neat. No safety net other than one’s own sense of honor.
So, what about you? How confident are you?
How confident do you want to be – with yourself and with others?