I’m often asked about to suggest some effective confidence building activities for readers or clients to try.
The first point I always make is that the clue here is in the third word: activities.
Confidence building is largely about the actions you take.
It is important to remember this because when considering how to increase our levels of confidence we often think that what we really need is to feel more confident.
The problem with this idea is that it is very hard to feel confident until you are confident. The uncomfortable truth is that in order to begin to improve our sense of self confidence, we often have to do the very thing we fear.
That is why the confidence building activities that you need to focus on are those that are directly capable of increasing your levels of confidence in the areas that challenge you most.
It is by taking the action that we are hesitant to take, that we can build real and sustainable belief about our capabilities in relation to that action.
Obviously this can be hard.
If, for example, you feel scared about meeting strangers in social situations, then it’s hard to just go out and meet strangers in social situations as a way to build your confidence.
But there is some good news.
When you’re doing this, you do not have to face all your demons at once.
Structure your confidence building activities around this framework
The sensible approach is to do what you fear, one small step at a time.
Here, for example, is a step by step plan if your goal is to increase your confidence amongst strangers in social situations.
- Start by identifying some people who you know pretty well, but are just outside your usual circle of friends and family – maybe some work colleagues or friends of friends.
- Next time you see those people, make a point of talking to them a bit more than you usually would. This probably means you need to take the lead in the conversation a bit more, when perhaps usually you just respond to their questions.
- In order to to do this, you can plan in advance what you might say. Think about the things that you know they do or like, and have some questions prepared that you can ask them. People generally like talking about themselves, so getting yourself comfortable with asking questions is a useful skill to build in the context of your overall goal.
- Practice this for a week or two until you feel quite natural talking to this group of people.
- Then identify another group who you know a bit less well than the first group.
- Follow the same approach. Think about what you already know about them but, this time, also consider what you don’t know. Prepare your questions. Be curious. Think of things you’d like to know about these people. Practice in the same way as before.
- Follow the same pattern with people that are increasingly less well known to you. Notice which questions work well and which don’t. Use more of the questions that work and less of the ones that don’t. Notice how you are doing. Give yourself credit for the progress you are making.
Ultimately, your aim is to be able to strike up conversations with strangers using the techniques that you have gradually learned.
You’ll eventually find that you can do this because you have managed your fears by taking progressive steps towards your confidence goal and learning from your experiences along the way.
The great thing is that you can adapt this framework to all sorts of different areas in which you need to build confidence.
The key elements of the framework by reference to the example above are these:
- Decide on the specific area you need to work on (e.g. socialising with strangers)
- Think about the critical behaviours need to be able to do more comfortably (lead conversations, ask questions)
- Start with the simplest, least threatening way you can practice those behaviours (with people just outside your immediate circle)
- Do some preparation in advance (research the people, have some questions ready)
- Intentionally practice those behaviours in the least threatening context until you get comfortable
- Identify the next level of challenge (people you know slightly less well)
- Do your preparation and carry out your intentional practice again
- Repeat until you’ve reached the level that you didn’t believe you could reach (talking with strangers) and you feel equipped with the behavioural habits to meet the challenges at that level.
Thoughts and feelings relating to confidence
This focus on taking action is not to dismiss the importance of managing the thoughts and emotions that arise when you are faced with a challenge to your confidence.
When we lack confidence in our ability to do certain things, we inevitably focus on our limitations and that, in turn, causes us to feel anxious and uncomfortable.
And, as discussed earlier, this anxiety and discomfort can get in the way of us taking the actions we need to take to build confidence.
You can learn how to deal with this, and why the answer is probably not what you think it is, in the next post.