“When you are confident, people think you are competent” – Is this true?

“My first language was shy. It’s only by having been thrust into the limelight that I have learn to cope with my shyness.”
Al Pacino

Gwen John was one of the most outstanding painters of the 20th century. She created intense and poignant portraits and still lives. She had been Rodin’s mistress and model and lived in France most of her life. Have you ever heard of her? Until a couple of years ago, neither had I. Unfortunately she was so cripplingly self-conscious that her more ebullient and talkative brother, Augustus John overshadowed her and got the attention and celebrity she richly deserved. Even he admitted, ” In 50 years time, I shall be known as the brother of Gwen John.”

Even the most outgoing of us, even celebrities and members of the Royal Family can be bothered by self doubt and uncertainty.

At a business networking event a few years ago, I remember someone saying,” When you are confident, people think you are competent.”

Hmm, when you are confident, people think you are competent. Is this true? Certainly when you speak convincingly, forcefully and authoritatively then others assume you know what you’re talking about. This is how people become leaders – they seem so sure of themselves.

So how do you convince people to believe in your competence when you are shy?

  • Be sure of what you want to say. Rehearse it in the bath, in your car, to the dog, to a friend. Whatever it looks on paper won’t sound right unless you say it out loud.
  • Find out as much as you can about who you are talking to – your audience at a presentation, a colleague in a meeting, member of  the board or someone you need to impress at a networking event. This will help you focus on them and they will be delighted you have done your research on them. It distracts you from feeling self-conscious.
  • Monitor your nerves and distract yourself the moment you notice them starting to dominate your thinking. Keep breathing in a regular pattern.
  • Keep doing the things that make you feel shy. It may be counter-intuitive when all you want to do is run away. However the more you do something, the more it becomes familiar and safe to do.
  • Practise relaxation. Easier said than done, I know. OK, lift your shoulders up whilst taking a deep breath. Then as you slowly, slowly breathe out releasing the air, let go of your shoulders. Let them drop. See how much further your shoulders drop each time.
  • Your stance and how you hold yourself improves morale. Relax your shoulders and lengthen your spine. Walk with an upright carriage and a firm step.
  • Behave “As if……….” for just 7 seconds. These initial 7 seconds are all you need whilst people are making their decision about you. This is the amount of time you have for your first impression to sink in. After that, your audience, colleague or business contact will then mirror back their belief that you ARE confident. And then you can respond to their response to you!

The more you practise being self confident, the more your own unconscious mind will believe it and reinforce your belief. It’s about being courageous. It’s about taking the risk. The more you do, the more you are.


About anrah

Anrah is a business development consultancy specialising in helping senior women in engineering and science, their teams and doctoral students increase 'presence', improve communication and generate impact to win stakeholder buy-in at the highest level.
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