In my work, I interview potential employees, collaborate with business partners, and hold numerous conversations related to running a business. I’ve noticed that many of the people I interview or meet lack self-confidence. The sad truth? That the absence in confidence frequently causes me to look elsewhere for employees and partners.
If you run a business or work for yourself, you must meet with clients. To sell your services or products to these clients, you have to exhibit self-confidence. Fortunately, you can learn to become more confident. In today’s post, I’ll share some ways to do that.
Step 1: Fake it until you make it
When I hired my first employee, sold my services to my first prospect, received client phone calls, and fired my first employee, I was all nerves. I wanted to avoid having unpleasant conversations or conversations with people I didn’t know. Fortunately, that was quite a while ago. Now I can speak with anyone at any time almost about anything. I’m not afraid of hard questions and performing key business tasks like selling, hiring and firing. And while I don’t make a habit of it, I can even prove someone wrong when they’re right. I can do all this because I developed self-confidence.
How did I develop that confidence? As you’ll see in the following personal account, I faked it until it became real.
When I lived in Toronto, Canada, I founded a construction company called Incredible Homes. I then invited a wise man 24 years my senior to join me in the business. As CEO, I ran the business while my partner managed all the construction.
In the beginning, I knew nothing about running a construction business. Working with both my partner and my clients was tough. I had to pretend like I knew everything—interestingly, a lot like my nine-year-old son does when he speaks as though he knows more than me. Occasionally, I’d irritate my partner and some clients because I spoke so confidently. I sometimes even made up things to maintain an image of confidence.
Yes, I faked it. Most of the time, I just used a poker face and strong voice. While I was completely nervous, I always outwardly exuded confidence.
Step 2: Exhibit the right body language
Part of showing self-confidence comes from your body language. In her fantastic TED Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” Amy Cuddy presents these simple actions you can take to develop happiness and presenting yourself more confidently:
Hold a pen between your teeth. This action forces you to smile, which sends a message to your brain that you feel happier, and actually makes you feel happier.
Pretend that you are powerful and stand with your arms crossed at your elbows for a few minutes. You will actually feel more powerful and confident.
By faking your confidence, over time your body and brain establishes this as the norm. At that point, you don’t have to fake it anymore. You simply are confident.
Step 3: Practice speaking with confidence
If you don’t understand what being confident feels or looks like, just take it step by step. My recent post about how to get things done discusses how to set micro goals in order to achieve bigger goals. You can apply this approach to developing self confidence, too.
Start by building your confidence on something small. For example, each time you talk to someone at a grocery store, a friend or a family member, pretend that they are your client, employee or partner. Talk as though you are sure of what you are saying and see how it feels. Next, speak this way on phone calls or in meetings with long-time clients. Even hold fictitious business meetings, speaking confidently with family members who pretend to be your clients. These actions condition your brain to speak more confidently in other situations.
Step 4: Try this homework assignment
Here’s a small homework assignment: Go to any store today to purchase something you need. When the cashier rings up your purchase, ask for a discount. Do this with confidence, and use this line, “Wow, this stuff is expensive! May I get a discount?” If they say no, which they probably will, ask them if you can talk to their manager. Do this with confidence, but then smile and say that you were just kidding, wish them a good day, and walk out holding your head high.
Share your experiences with completing the homework assignment in the comments below. I would love to hear how you felt, how the sales clerk responded, and any other thoughts about your experience.