No matter who you are, confidence waxes and wanes over time - dipping dramatically at age 16 and finally peaking again at age 60. It’s impacted by things we can and cannot control. We can feel very confident and then next minute, not so much.
Some specific individuals or types of people can make us uncomfortable. Certain situations like presenting, interviewing, confronting coworkers or contributing ideas can challenge confidence. We even sabotage it ourselves when we fear that we missed out, pursue impossible perfection and allow ourselves to be misled by social media.
Confidence appears in our workplace whether we’re an employee, manager, entrepreneur, or maybe in between jobs or just returning to the workforce. Our employment terms describe a specific work role, but we become part of organizational culture and policies, with both written and unwritten expectations about how we should act. As a result, we may show up in ways that are not confident or perceived as a lack of confidence.
Here are 5 ways to become more confident at work today:
1. Stay Engaged and Speak Up When You Feel Comfortable
Maybe you’re someone that needs time to process information before reacting to it. That’s totally okay and everyone benefits from all types of neurodiversity! Meetings happen so everyone can be informed and contribute valuable ideas to the organization but who says it has to happen only at that moment? If you need more time to process, say so, and then contribute your thoughts afterward in an email or at the next gathering. It's totally OK to stay quiet provided you remain visibly engaged in the discussion and contribute in a productive way during or after.
2. Avoid Filler Words and Qualifiers
Saying words like ‘um’ and ‘like’ are signs you aren’t certain about what you want to say next. Subservient phrases such as “This may sound silly but” or “It's only my opinion but” also imply a lack of confidence. There are ways to kick these out of your habitual speech, but you can start by speaking slower – it's the key to giving your brain a chance to formulate thoughts into clear words. You can also use a work buddy to secretly signal you (like rubbing their ear or tapping their cheek) whenever you use one of these unproductive words or phrases.
3. Schedule Time to Ask for Feedback
I’m a huge proponent of getting feedback as much as you can, but it can be done on your time. If you have regular one-on-one meetings with your manager, use that time to ask for feedback on work that is in progress. If you have completed a big project, request a debrief with your manager and others involved to learn what you ask them, what you did well, and how you could improve next time. Be sure to ask them not just what - but also why. Be open to negative feedback with a simple acknowledgment that such as, “that is helpful to know for the future.” You don’t have to agree with all of the feedback but it is helpful to understand how your work is being perceived.
4. Be Firm on Your Career Path and What You Want To Do Next
Complaining about your current job without action can come across as afraid, lazy or helpless. No one else is responsible for your career path except you. So if you want to start earning more or doing more satisfying work, consider career planning as part of your job. Start networking and self-advocating. When you take charge of your career your decisive mindset builds confidence (real confidence is the best career credential of all!)
5. Don’t be Defensive
We are wired to detect anything that will hurt us – whether it be physically or emotionally. And at work, we want to fit in, belong and be seen as a valuable part of the process so we are always on high alert to protect our egos and reputations. When someone criticizes you or implies that they disagree with you, our brain stems react to shield us (“No, you apparently don’t understand”.) These protective moves show your own insecurity and sometimes even put the other person(s) into defensive mode too. It’s true that Wonder Woman needs to deflect some real attacks occasionally but she never needs to prove her worth.