Confidence is a vital attribute of any employee within an SME, where promoting a sense of competence and assurance to both customers and colleagues is crucial to success. The difficulty is, that unlike any other missing workplace skill, people don’t tend to seek outside assistance in developing their confidence. Instead, they just get on with it.
This is a terrible shame. If you were lacking the ability to operate a particular computer package, you would ask for help. If you were unable to complete a particular end of month report, you would seek additional training. But confidence isn’t given the same importance. In truth though, many people struggle with a lack of confidence and there are many ways of improving it.
Self-esteem vs confidence
Although often considered one and the same thing, self-esteem and self-confidence are actually quite different. Self-esteem is more concerned with self-worth and the judgements that you make about yourself, whilst self-confidence is how you rate your own abilities and, specifically, your ability to get the job done.
Transport self-confidence to the workplace and you instantly begin to see how important it is. If you don’t have confidence in your professional abilities, then the battle for job success will be a long one. With confidence, you are also more likely to be creative in your approach to work because failure isn’t something that scares you - it probably isn’t even on your radar.
Assertiveness vs aggression
Confident people are also assertive. They are clear about their wants and needs at work, and are happy to communicate them as necessary. Unconfident people in comparison can find appropriate assertiveness difficult, preferring instead to avoid an issue which can lead to resentment and unhappiness in the job role.
Assertiveness generally is a delicate balancing act, as too much can be seen as overbearing and can even veer into aggression. Similarly, those who struggle with confidence can mistake aggression for assertiveness, thinking that by being bullish they are showing power.
True assertiveness though is not aggression. It is about communicating effectively, expressing your thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely but also taking the time to hear others’ thoughts and ideas.
It is perfectly possible to learn to be more confident at work. One of the key ways to do this is to consider how you communicate with others, as your lexical choices and manner of speech can either inspire or create doubt:
- Be confident in your language with others, opting for ‘I can’ and ‘I will’ rather than ‘I might be able to’.
- Avoid filler words in your speech, because those 'ums' and 'ahs' tend to signal a lack of confidence.
- Be positive about your abilities, not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that shows you are sure that you can achieve the desired outcome.
- It is fine to say if you are unsure, or to ask for clarification, but let that be about the nature of task itself rather than your abilities.
You can often radiate a sense of confidence and self-assurance just by tweaking the words that you use and the rhetoric in which you speak. In fact, many people who present as confident actually aren’t naturally confident - they just know what to say to make it seem as though they are.
Confident body language
People read an awful lot into your body language. Sheepish and hesitant body language signals a lack of confidence. Be aware of slumped shoulders, avoidance of eye contact and skirting around the edge of a room rather than entering into it with assurance and ease.
Much of confidence is also about how you present yourself. When you meet new clients, suppliers and colleagues for the first time they form impressions of you from:
- the way you communicate verbally and non-verbally
- how you are dressed
- how you carry yourself.
First impressions are largely unconscious and formed from the little clues that you provide about your personality. You can actually help your own confidence enormously just through:
- standing upright with good posture
- making appropriate eye contact
- showing that you are meant to be there.
When you display this type of confident body language, people respond differently to you, and that makes your job a whole lot easier.
Finally, when it comes to confidence at work, or lack of it, you can be your own worst enemy. Imagine there is an opportunity to put yourself forward for a promotion or to lead a project, the self-doubt will appear and the negative self-talk will begin.
Thinking 'I can't' is massively inhibiting and will only serve to erode your confidence further. Your image is what you make it - if you want people to think you are self-confident then it is down to you to make it so.
Remember, that confidence is largely about presenting yourself as confident. What you say, what you do and how you do it. Everyone has the ability to present as confident, and as you practice the skills and are perceived as confident by others this boosts your natural quota of confidence making doing your job that much easier.
About the Author
Luxury Academy London, a multi-national private training company. Luxury Academy London specialize in leadership, communication and business etiquette training for companies and private clients across a wide range of sectors. A dynamic trainer and seminar leader, Paul has designed and taught courses, workshops and seminars worldwide on a wide variety of soft skills.is co-founder and director of